I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it. If you give me credit, thanks. If not, OK.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christ and Creation

I have created a 20-slide PowerPoint 2013 presentation, "Christ and Creation," which attempts to set forth the essential scriptures concerning the relationship of Christ and Creation. It's mostly quoted public domain scripture.

The presentation is free for anyone to use, provided that they don't seek monetary compensation for it.

The presentation can be downloaded from this page.

Thanks for reading.

Please leave any suggestions or questions as a comment.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sunspots 553

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: An article in Christianity Today argues that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet.

Recently, the President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, jr., urged LU students to carry guns, and be prepared to use them, in case the campus were to be invaded by terrorists. John Piper has posted a detailed, scripture-based response, stating, basically, that that's the wrong attitude for a Christian.

(If you are a fashion model, anyway.) National Public Radio reports that the fashion industry may be going to require that models not be walking skeletons -- really. There have been a few deaths among them, and the super-skinny models are probably inducing anorexia in girls.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes Republican support for Presidential candidates as correlated with the education of those Republicans, both so far for the 2016 race, and for the 2012 race. Romney was strongly supported by Republicans with college degrees.

The Difference Between differentiates between Marxism and Socialism.

FiveThirtyEight also analyzes, by state, preference for saying "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas."

NPR reports on the young Donald Trump, especially in military school.

Science: Christianity Today-related publication, Behemoth, on virgin births. (In animals, not in Bethlehem.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 53

There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and again at ethical societies and parliaments of religion: “the religions of the earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what they teach.” It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach. It is as if a man were to say, “Do not be misled by the fact that the Church Times and the Freethinker look utterly different, that one is painted on vellum and the other carved on marble, that one is triangular and the other hectagonal; read them and you will see that they say the same thing.” The truth is, of course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they don’t say the same thing. An atheist stockbroker in Surbiton looks exactly like a Swedenborgian stockbroker in Wimbledon. You may walk round and round them and subject them to the most personal and offensive study without seeing anything Swedenborgian in the hat or anything particularly godless in the umbrella. It is exactly in their souls that they are divided. So the truth is that the difficulty of all the creeds of the earth is not as alleged in this cheap maxim: that they agree in meaning, but differ in machinery. It is exactly the opposite. They agree in machinery; almost every great religion on earth works with the same external methods, with priests, scriptures, altars, sworn brotherhoods, special feasts. They agree in the mode of teaching; what they differ about is the thing to be taught. Pagan optimists and Eastern pessimists would both have temples, just as Liberals and Tories would both have newspapers. Creeds that exist to destroy each other both have scriptures, just as armies that exist to destroy each other both have guns.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 in Biology and Medicine, according to Wired

Wired has published a list of the most important developments in biology and medicine. Here it is. Some very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sunspots 552

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Some interesting research on church attendance during the Christmas season, from Christianity Today.

Education: Adjunct professors don't get paid much, and may have to teach at more than one institution, to get enough to live on, according to an NPR report.

From Global Citizen Foundation: "50 Education Technology Tools Every Teacher Should Know About."

Food: NPR reports on how the food industry has been manipulating us, and not for our good.

Health: An article about the most common receiving blanket (for newborn babies).

NPR reports that surgeons had a saxophonist playing his instrument during brain surgery, and why.

Politics: (and Christianity) Michael Gerson, of the Washington Post, on how un-evangelical Donald Trump is.

Science: Wired reports that you have tiny mites on your face. So do I. Scientists can trace the connections between racial groups by studying these mites.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 52

Of the fact and evidence of the supernatural I will speak afterwards. Here we are only concerned with this clear point; that in so far as the liberal idea of freedom can be said to be on either side in the discussion about miracles, it is obviously on the side of miracles. Reform or (in the only tolerable sense) progress means simply the gradual control of matter by mind. A miracle simply means the swift control of matter by mind. If you wish to feed the people, you may think that feeding them miraculously in the wilderness is impossible—but you cannot think it illiberal. If you really want poor children to go to the seaside, you cannot think it illiberal that they should go there on flying dragons; you can only think it unlikely. A holiday, like Liberalism, only means the liberty of man. A miracle only means the liberty of God. You may conscientiously deny either of them, but you cannot call your denial a triumph of the liberal idea. The Catholic Church believed that man and God both had a sort of spiritual freedom. Calvinism took away the freedom from man, but left it to God. Scientific materialism binds the Creator Himself; it chains up God as the Apocalypse chained the devil. It leaves nothing free in the universe. And those who assist this process are called the “liberal theologians.”
This, as I say, is the lightest and most evident case. The assumption that there is something in the doubt of miracles akin to liberality or reform is literally the opposite of the truth. If a man cannot believe in miracles there is an end of the matter; he is not particularly liberal, but he is perfectly honourable and logical, which are much better things. But if he can believe in miracles, he is certainly the more liberal for doing so; because they mean first, the freedom of the soul, and secondly, its control over the tyranny of circumstance. Sometimes this truth is ignored in a singularly naïve way, even by the ablest men. For instance, Mr. Bernard Shaw speaks with hearty old-fashioned contempt for the idea of miracles, as if they were a sort of breach of faith on the part of nature: he seems strangely unconscious that miracles are only the final flowers of his own favourite tree, the doctrine of the omnipotence of will. Just in the same way he calls the desire for immortality a paltry selfishness, forgetting that he has just called the desire for life a healthy and heroic selfishness. How can it be noble to wish to make one’s life infinite and yet mean to wish to make it immortal? No, if it is desirable that man should triumph over the cruelty of nature or custom, then miracles are certainly desirable; we will discuss afterwards whether they are possible.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunspots 551

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Christianity Today reports on the most popular Bible verses, based on on-line access to them. Popularity varies by the user's country.

Computing: How to look at the other person's screen when they call you with a Windows computer problem.

(And politics) FiveThirtyEight has studied the effect of affirmative action in college admission -- without it, minorities are still not as likely to be admitted.

Politics: Most Americans aren't middle-class anymore.

Science: Wired reports on a lacewing fly with an amazing signal that attracts females.

Wired also reports on what happens if you get shot -- and it's not a lot like the way TV and movies portray it.

FiveThirtyEight analyzes Stephen Curry's long basketball shots, and finds that, so far this season, his accuracy is unprecedented.

Breanna Stewart, of the University of Connecticut Huskies, has become the only player in women's college basketball history to have both more than 300 career blocked shots and 300 career assists. She is also the only women's player (and, I think, the only player of either sex) to have been named most valuable player of the NCAA Final Four for three years. And she has most of this season yet to play, God willing!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 51

In the few following pages I propose to point out as rapidly as possible that on every single one of the matters most strongly insisted on by liberalisers of theology their effect upon social practice would be definitely illiberal. Almost every contemporary proposal to bring freedom into the church is simply a proposal to bring tyranny into the world. For freeing the church now does not even mean freeing it in all directions. It means freeing that peculiar set of dogmas loosely called scientific, dogmas of monism, of pantheism, or of Arianism, or of necessity. And every one of these (and we will take them one by one) can be shown to be the natural ally of oppression. In fact, it is a remarkable circumstance (indeed not so very remarkable when one comes to think of it) that most things are the allies of oppression. There is only one thing that can never go past a certain point in its alliance with oppression—and that is orthodoxy. I may, it is true, twist orthodoxy so as partly to justify a tyrant. But I can easily make up a German philosophy to justify him entirely.
For some extraordinary reason, there is a fixed notion that it is more liberal to disbelieve in miracles than to believe in them. Why, I cannot imagine, nor can anybody tell me. For some inconceivable cause a “broad” or “liberal” clergyman always means a man who wishes at least to diminish the number of miracles; it never means a man who wishes to increase that number. It always means a man who is free to disbelieve that Christ came out of His grave; it never means a man who is free to believe that his own aunt came out of her grave. It is common to find trouble in a parish because the parish priest cannot admit that St. Peter walked on water; yet how rarely do we find trouble in a parish because the clergyman says that his father walked on the Serpentine? And this is not because (as the swift secularist debater would immediately retort) miracles cannot be believed in our experience. It is not because “miracles do not happen,” as in the dogma which Matthew Arnold recited with simple faith. More supernatural things are alleged to have happened in our time than would have been possible eighty years ago. Men of science believe in such marvels much more than they did: the most perplexing, and even horrible, prodigies of mind and spirit are always being unveiled in modern psychology. Things that the old science at least would frankly have rejected as miracles are hourly being asserted by the new science. The only thing which is still old-fashioned enough to reject miracles is the New Theology. But in truth this notion that it is “free” to deny miracles has nothing to do with the evidence for or against them. It is a lifeless verbal prejudice of which the original life and beginning was not in the freedom of thought, but simply in the dogma of materialism.

The man of the nineteenth century did not disbelieve in the Resurrection because his liberal Christianity allowed him to doubt it. He disbelieved in it because his very strict materialism did not allow him to believe it. Tennyson, a very typical nineteenth-century man, uttered one of the instinctive truisms of his contemporaries when he said that there was faith in their honest doubt. There was indeed. Those words have a profound and even a horrible truth. In their doubt of miracles there was a faith in a fixed and godless fate; a deep and sincere faith in the incurable routine of the cosmos. The doubts of the agnostic were only the dogmas of the monist.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Justice as a topic in the Bible

How does the Bible use the word, justice? Below is the result of a search. I used the ESV for the search, but the scripture quotations below are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain. A search of the entire Bible returned 136 occurrences, with only a few in the New Testament. These are below:

Matthew 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen;
my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased:
I will put my Spirit on him.
He will proclaim justice to the nations.

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. (Repeated in Luke 11:42.)

Luke 18:1 He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up, 2 saying, “There was a judge in a certain city who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man. 3  A widow was in that city, and she often came to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’ 4  He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God, nor respect man, 5  yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.’ ”
6 The Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. 7  Won’t God avenge his chosen ones who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them? [The ESV uses the word, justice, four times in this passage.]

Acts 8:33 In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away.
Who will declare His generation?
For his life is taken from the earth.” [The ESV uses
justice, rather thanjudgment. This is a quotation from Isaiah 53.]

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, [The ESV uses enforced justice, rather than worked out righteousness.]

The Old Testament uses justice many times, mostly in warnings against the rich and powerful, for exploiting the poor and powerless.

In Amos: 5:11 Therefore, because you trample on the poor,
and take taxes from him of wheat:
You have built houses of cut stone,
but you will not dwell in them.
You have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many your offenses,
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the just,
who take a bribe,
and who turn away the needy in the courts.

Amos 5:24 But let justice roll on like rivers,
and righteousness like a mighty stream. [This was quoted by Martin Luther King, jr., in his
I Have a Dream speech.]

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good.
What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly,
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Do Justice!

Friday, December 11, 2015

"Poor" in the New Testament

What does the New Testament have to say about the poor? Below is the result of a search. I used the ESV for the search, but the scripture quotations below are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

Matthew 11:4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Repeated, Luke 7:22)

Mark 10: 17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. 19  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not give false testimony,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’ ”
20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.”
21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” (Repeated, Luke 18:22)

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim release to the captives,
recovering of sight to the blind,
to deliver those who are crushed,
19 and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (This was a quotation from Isaiah 61, which Jesus read as part of an address to the synagogue in Nazareth.)

Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.”

John 13:29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus said to him, “Buy what things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. [Apparently such donations had been made, in the past, from the money box.]

Romans 15:26 For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion. for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has scattered abroad. He has given to the poor.
His righteousness remains forever.”

Galatians 2:9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, those who were reputed to be pillars, gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—which very thing I was also zealous to do.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why isn't God's existence obvious to everyone?

If God is so all-powerful, why can't we prove that he exists?
I believe that God exists, that He brought the universe into being, that God the Son redeemed us through his death, and was resurrected as a token of God's power, that God the Son sustains the created universe at present, and that God the Holy Spirit guides believers now. I also believe that the claims in the previous sentence cannot be unquestionably proved, mathematically, scientifically, or logically. As the scripture quoted in the graphic at the top of this post puts it, "By faith we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what was seen has not been made out of things which are visible." (Hebrews 11:3)

The author of Hebrews does not explicitly say that we can't unequivocally prove the existence of God to doubters, but it implies that, and common experience indicates strongly that we cannot prove God's existence irrefutably to a doubter.

Why is this so? Why does God hide himself? One classic answer is that, in this way, God allows for choice to believe as part of the free will of human beings. If God's existence were that obvious, everyone would be a believer.

Recently, Jim Stump, of the BioLogos Forum has posted on this question. I'll let you read his post, but will say that Stump believes that God has arranged things so that He is hidden for another reason, which Stump spells out. (Stump's post is partly based on a book by John Mullen, and Stump also refers to his own previous posts on the subject at hand.)

See also my post on Hebrews 11:3, Read Stump. Thanks for reading this.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Sunspots 550

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: (and politics) Ken Schenck has a fine post (and it's not long) on "God calls us to respect our governments," based on what the Bible says about that topic.

Relevant has a thought-provoking post on the question of whether there really is a "War on Christmas," and, in the process, looks hard at how our culture handles Christmas. Not well.

Computing: A short introduction to how to use Twitter.

Education: The difference between "have" and "have been."

The Environment: Wired reports that quite a few climate scientists have come to realize that the scientific findings don't matter. It's the money.

Politics: Leonard Pitts, jr., on the recent activity of Presidential candidate Donald Trump, and those who are enthused by this activity: "Keeping the customer satisfied, giving the people what they want, is the fundament of sound business. More effectively than anyone in recent memory, Trump has transferred that principle to politics. Problem is, it turns out that what a large portion of the Republican faithful wants is racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, the validation of unrealistic fears and the promise of quick fixes to complex problems."

Jerry Falwell, jr., recently urged the students at Liberty University to carry concealed weapons, and be prepared to use them on terrorists. Relevant analyzes what he said, and the reaction from the students, and says: the point that ought to concern all Christians is the joyous tone being struck here. Falwell speaks for the largest Christian university in the United States, and publicly calls for death to thunderous applause. Even if we allow for the distinctly unlikely possibility that Falwell or one of his students would ever have the opportunity to shoot and kill radicalized Islamic terrorists, ought the response really be one of—there's really no other way to put it—celebration? Shouldn't our reaction to violence elicit a slightly different response than a Monday night touchdown? Indeed.

Science: FiveThirty-Eight discusses the Paris Climate talks.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 50

It is customary to complain of the bustle and strenuousness of our epoch. But in truth the chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle. Take one quite external case; the streets are noisy with taxicabs and motorcars; but this is not due to human activity but to human repose. There would be less bustle if there were more activity, if people were simply walking about. Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous. And this which is true of the apparent physical bustle is true also of the apparent bustle of the intellect. Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say “The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment,” you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin “I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out,” you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word “damn” than in the word “degeneration.”

But these long comfortable words that save modern people the toil of reasoning have one particular aspect in which they are especially ruinous and confusing. This difficulty occurs when the same long word is used in different connections to mean quite different things. Thus, to take a well-known instance, the word “idealist” has one meaning as a piece of philosophy and quite another as a piece of moral rhetoric. In the same way the scientific materialists have had just reason to complain of people mixing up “materialist” as a term of cosmology with “materialist” as a moral taunt.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Following Christ's Commandments - evidence of our redemption

A person who is truly a believer follows Christ’s commandments.
John 14:21 One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.”
23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. 24 He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. (Quotations, in red, are from the World English Bible, public domain.)
John 15:14  You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.

1 John 1:3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 4 One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, God’s love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him: 6 he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.

Matthew 7:24 “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. 25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

What are Christ’s commandments? Many of them are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Some of the commands in that Sermon are to keep our motives pure – don’t even want to commit adultery or murder; be reconciled to others, and forgive them; turn the other cheek; love even your enemies; don’t draw attention to your good deeds; don’t be anxious about worldly possessions; judge yourselves before judging others; beware of false prophets.

Christ also told us to live the summary of the Old Testament Law:
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

In Mark 12:14-19, Jesus commanded His listeners to honor the government, including paying taxes. We should remember that this was an occupying government, and its head was a Roman pagan emperor.
There are other commands, but one more is found in the last words of Matthew’s gospel: Matthew 28:19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

This post is modified slightly from an earlier post on "Evidence for Being a Christian." Keeping Christ's commandments is one such evidence. Thanks for reading. Keep Christ's commandments!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Sunspots 549

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Christianity: (and politics) Benjamin L. Corey tells us that the Governor of Texas has ordered Christian ministries to cease giving aid to any Syrian refugees. (Other news outlets, including CBS News, on December 1, 2015, have dealt with this.)

Christianity Today
lists, and explains, five errors pastors might make (some have) regarding social media.

Computing: Wired reports that the Wikipedia is incorporating some artificial intelligence into the editing process.

Finance: National Public Radio considers whether pennies make sense any more. (Groan . . . I didn't put this in humor, in spite of that pun -- which is NPR's -- because the post is about finance, not fun.)

Health: NPR reports that your relationships with your adult siblings may have an important influence on your well-being.

Humor: (and other items not easy to classify) The Difference between a pamphlet and a brochure.

Science: (Math, in this case) Christianity Today's Behemoth considers why fractals are so beautiful, and muses a little about a God who sometimes creates using fractal geometry.


Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Atheism doesn't have all the answers, and it can be a religion, say some prominent atheists

Michael Ruse is a prominent philosopher. His academic career has included a lot thinking about the relationship between Christianity and science. He has written a lot about the connection between Darwinism and ethics. In a recent article, he describes himself as "an atheist Darwinian evolutionist ..."

The article is about what Ruse sees as excesses by some other prominent atheists, and he names some of them: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, Edward O. Wilson. Actually, he calls these people, and they would probably agree, Humanists. These Humanists, and others, Ruse says, are too enthusiastic. In other words, they are actively trying to convert others to their views, and ignoring weaknesses of their position. At least some of these four, and others, are advocating a sort of religion based on science.

Ruse points out some serious weaknesses. For one thing, he says ". . . there is no simple line from evolutionary biology to the ethical life, and there is no guarantee that an alternative secular religion will lead us there." I agree. Ethics has to be based on something, and Darwinism doesn't provide such a foundation, whatever the scientific merits of Darwinism.

Another serious weakness is that science has limitations. Ruse says that science can't answer the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" or "Does life have a purpose." Indeed. The Humanists claim that those questions can be answered by science, or that they aren't important, which is ridiculous.

Ruse makes a powerful case, and it's more powerful because of his prominence, and his own atheism.

For more about Dawkins, see here and here.

*  *  *  *  *

In another article, Gary Gutting, writing in Salon, claims that Richard Dawkins has departed from ideas with firm foundations. The question Gutting considers is the question of whether God exists. Dawkins does not, I believe, claim to have disproved God's existence beyond all doubt, but he clearly believes that he has made some strong arguments against His existence. Gutting, a philosopher who apparently believes in God, himself says that "I myself think that there’s no argument that decisively establishes that God exists." But that's by no means the same as proving that He doesn't.

(Gutting is apparently a solidly competent philosopher, but he's not much of a biologist -- he seems to think that tortoises are amphibians . . .) 

Gutting concludes that there is a serious case to be made for theism. Therefore, either Dawkins doesn't understand that, or he does, and has chosen to pretend that there is no such serious case.

I conclude by quoting Hebrews 11:3 "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible." (World English Bible, public domain) My own belief is that Gutting is correct -- there is no decisive argument for the existence of a creator God. But I can logically and legitimately believe that He does exist, and so can you, even if Dawkins doesn't.

See also here.

I thank Jim Stump, of BioLogos, for pointing me, and other readers, to these articles.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 49

In modern ideal conceptions of society there are some desires that are possibly not attainable: but there are some desires that are not desirable. That all men should live in equally beautiful houses is a dream that may or may not be attained. But that all men should live in the same beautiful house is not a dream at all; it is a nightmare. That a man should love all old women is an ideal that may not be attainable. But that a man should regard all old women exactly as he regards his mother is not only an unattainable ideal, but an ideal which ought not to be attained.

I do not know if the reader agrees with me in these examples; but I will add the example which has always affected me most. I could never conceive or tolerate any Utopia which did not leave to me the liberty for which I chiefly care, the liberty to bind myself. Complete anarchy would not merely make it impossible to have any discipline or fidelity; it would also make it impossible to have any fun. To take an obvious instance, it would not be worth while to bet if a bet were not binding. The dissolution of all contracts would not only ruin morality but spoil sport. Now betting and such sports are only the stunted and twisted shapes of the original instinct of man for adventure and romance, of which much has been said in these pages. And the perils, rewards, punishments, and fulfillments of an adventure must be real, or the adventure is only a shifting and heartless nightmare. If I bet I must be made to pay, or there is no poetry in betting. If I challenge I must be made to fight, or there is no poetry in challenging. If I vow to be faithful I must be cursed when I am unfaithful, or there is no fun in vowing. You could not even make a fairy tale from the experiences of a man who, when he was swallowed by a whale, might find himself at the top of the Eiffel Tower, or when he was turned into a frog might begin to behave like a flamingo.

For the purpose even of the wildest romance results must be real; results must be irrevocable. Christian marriage is the great example of a real and irrevocable result; and that is why it is the chief subject and center of all our romantic writing. And this is my last instance of the things that I should ask, and ask imperatively, of any social paradise; I should ask to be kept to my bargain, to have my oaths and engagements taken seriously; I should ask Utopia to avenge my honour on myself. All my modern Utopian friends look at each other rather doubtfully, for their ultimate hope is the dissolution of all special ties. But again I seem to hear, like a kind of echo, an answer from beyond the world. “You will have real obligations, and therefore real adventures when you get to my Utopia. But the hardest obligation and the steepest adventure is to get there.”

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grace in the Bible


Grace in the Bible: (some occurrences, not all of them!)

Proverbs 3:34 Surely he mocks the mockers, but he gives grace to the humble. (One of the few instances of a reference to grace in the Old Testament.)

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Acts 15:39b Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and went out, being commended by the brothers to the grace of God. (Grace is not just for salvation, but for power to represent Christ to others, and protection in doing so, as God wills.)

Acts 20:32 Now, brothers, I entrust you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Grace helps us to grow in Christ, to be sanctified to His service.)

Romans 12: For I say through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. 4 For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another, 6 having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us: if prophecy, let’s prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; 7 or service, let’s give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, to his exhorting; he who gives, let him do it with generosity; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (We have gifts for service, as God's grace determines this for each of us.)

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia, 2 how in much proof of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their generosity. 3 For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, 4 begging us with much entreaty to receive this grace and the fellowship in the service to the saints. 5 This was not as we had expected, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had made a beginning before, so he would also complete in you this grace. 7 But as you abound in everything, in faith, utterance, knowledge, all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that you also abound in this grace. 8 I speak not by way of commandment, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity also of your love. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. (Grace empowers us to give to Kingdom work.)

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in everything, may abound to every good work. (Again, grace empowers us.)

2 Corinthians 12:9 He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. (Being able to serve, even though weak, is due to grace.)

Ephesians 1:7 … in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace … (We commonly think of grace as responsible for our salvation. It is, of course.)

Ephesians 2:6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; 8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, that no one would boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. (This may mean that grace will enable us to experience the life with Christ in the Final Kingdom.)

1 Thessalonians 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (A statement like this is found at the beginning or end of most of the epistles of the New Testament. These statements are for the believers who were expected to read the letters, so they were not just about salvation.)

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God, 9a who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace … (Again, grace so that we can do good works.)

2 Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (Again.)

Hebrews 4:16 Let’s therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace for help in time of need. (Our prayers are answered by God's grace!)

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Be subject therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8a Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (Grace is supplied as we need it.)

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms. (Grace enables us to serve the church.)

1 Peter 5:10 But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (Grace enables us to grow spiritually.)

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (An admonition to grow in grace, which implies that believers may resist grace from God.)

The first and last statements in a book, or a speech, are usually especially significant. The first verse in the Bible tells us that God created. The last one tells us that He offers His grace to believers: Revelation 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen.

Thanks for reading.