Chosen for this week's video of the week is this video from Inspiring Philosophy on Youtube. He examines what is perhaps one of the worst arguments against Theism. Enjoy!
For those of you who do not know, I try to make a habit out of talking to atheists and other non-Christians online, at least whenever they aren't hurling insults. I believe that we should discuss our beliefs with those who do not share them. After all, in what other way are we going to spread the Gospel? If we as Christians do not start talking to non-Christians, the spread of the Good News is hindered. Not only that, but we are commanded to give a reason for the hope that is in us. So, if we do not share our beliefs, and why we believe what we believe, we are in violation of one of Scripture's commands. There is one recent incident, though, that sticks out in my mind.
I have been talking to someone on Twitter who calls himself, "NooYawk Atheist," though it seems he is really an agnostic. He initiated a conversation with me when I tweeted a quote by John Lennox, where Professor Lennox discusses the definition of faith. This lead to a new post titled, "Is Faith Blind", since I felt the reply was too lengthy to send on Twitter. We had about a day's worth of dialogue back and forth, with most of it being very productive, although I was quite confused at his last reply, in which he stated,
"So then you're claiming to know that God exists, aren't you? If the evidence is strong enough to warrant the claim, you wouldn't need to employ [blind] faith at all. In which case, share the evidence and accept your Nobel Prize & fame & fortune."
What confuses me is that he seems to assume that anyone who would be able to show the existence of God would have received a Nobel Prize and be rich and famous. However, there are a large number of people who have made amazing discoveries who have not received Nobel Prizes. He also seems to assume that it would be widely accepted, which is not the case. There are still people who honestly believe that the earth is flat. Despite the confusion over this, however, I feel that the conversation was very productive.
As our conversation drew to a close, I started thinking that there is one thing the both he and I could agree on: That whatever we believe, we should not believe it blindly. This became more apparent to me after our conversation, and I think there is a lesson in it. Christians, honest non-believers want us to have a reason for our beliefs. The world is looking for answers, and we have them. We should be ready to give these answers to anyone who asks us for them. There are far too many misconceptions of Christians out there, such as:
"They all just exercise blind faith."
"Science has shown that God is not needed."
"Christianity is the cause of most of the world's problems."
It seems to me that we must be willing to stand up and correct these misconceptions. We must be prepared with an answer. If we aren't, we will lose souls.
Today, I sent out the first part of this quote on Twitter: "Faith is not a leap in the dark; it is the exact opposite. It's a commitment based on evidence." In my experience, it is usually not a quote that gets criticism on Twitter. I assume that most people who disagree with it just pass by it and say, "Well, that person is entitled to his or her opinion," and leave it at that. However, when I sent out the first part of this quote today, I received an interesting reply from a guy who calls himself the "NooYawk Atheist." His reply can be found here.
NooYawk Atheist replied that "Faith is not a commitment, and it's not based on evidence. You're thinking of trust or hope." Others, such as the so-called New Atheists would probably think that this is the end of the argument. However, while this is a popular idea, it is absolutely false. It is a straw man. Faith, at least in the orthodox Christian tradition, must be thought of as trust for several reasons.
First, there are several passages of Scripture, from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that command us to think about what we believe. Consider the words of Solomon,
"Even zeal is not good without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily sins."
Solomon here is expressing the value of knowledge by pointing out that even zeal, such as religious zeal, is no good without knowledge. Here Solomon expresses the emphasis that believers are to place on what we know rather than what we do not know. Solomon would think poorly of the person who blindfolded himself before leaving for another city. He would have praised the man who examined the various routes and chose the one that lead him safely to his destination.
An illustration from the book of Exodus suffices. In Exodus 14:31, we read,
"When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the LORD and in his servant Moses."
Notice that the people had faith in God and in Moses AFTER they saw "the mighty power that the LORD had unleashed against the Egyptians." They were not expected to have a blind faith, nor did they. Their faith followed the evidence, and this is how we are to understand it, as well.
Finally, let's take a look at an example from the New Testament. One verse commonly cited by atheists to support the "the Bible teaches blind faith" position is John 20:29. This passage is often taken out of context and used to support a position that it does not truly support. In fact, this passage, when used in context, helps make a case FOR faith based on evidence. John 20:26-29 says,
"After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, 'Peace to you!' Then He said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don't be an unbeliever, but a believer.' Thomas responded to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said, 'Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.'"
Notice that Jesus did not reply to Thomas by simply saying, "Just have faith, Thomas. It doesn't matter how things look, just believe, even without evidence!" Instead, Jesus offers Thomas evidence of His resurrection. "Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side," was Jesus's reply to Thomas. There are literally dozens of other examples that could be cited here, but I think the point has been amply illustrated.
Second, faith in the orthodox Christian sense is not to be understood as a blind faith because it goes against the grammatical usage of the word "faith" in the New Testament. The Greek word the New Testament authors used for "faith" is the Greek word, "pistis", which literally means "trust" (1). More accurately, it can be understood as an active trust. So a blind faith is unbiblical. That is, the Christian ought not have blind faith.
In summation, whatever NooYawk Atheist and others may say, the idea that all faith is blind is just a straw man argument. I hope he and others can come to see just how much "blind faith" they have had in the idea that all faith is blind.
As some of you may know, I often scroll through Youtube, looking at videos that both critique and affirm arguments for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc. The following video showed up in my "Recommended For You" section. In my opinion, it shows the bankruptcy of the atheistic worldview when it comes to objective morals. Anyway, watch and feel free to comment.
No doubt you have heard of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" that has recently been made a law in the state of Indiana. This law has unjustly come under severe attack since its proposal and adoption. Here, I would like to talk a little about this law, its history, and some objections that have been raised against it.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015, recently passed and signed into law in the state of Indiana would essentially protect a person with religious beliefs, such as a Christian, from being forced to participate in events that are contrary to his or her religious beliefs. Several groups, including reason.com, have offered arguments supporting the repeal of this law. I believe that these are unfounded, and I will tell you why.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015 is not the first bill of its type to pass in the United States. In 1993, then-president Bill Clinton signed a similar bill into law. The Indiana bill is similar to this law. Several other states also have laws similar to the one in Indiana.
Contrary to popular belief, this law says nothing about sexual orientation. It does not allow the discrimination against someone who is gay. Rather, the law is intended to protect the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. This was part of the original Bill of Rights and guarantees that a person's religious rights will not be violated.
Since I am not a legal scholar, I will not debate on a legal level. However, I would like to look at some objections from a logical perspective. Reason.com recently posted an article and lists several court cases that may relate to this issue. However, this article(1) says very little to nothing about the other bills that have passed into law (mentioned above). A further look at the article reveals a bias that immediately leaves me suspicious that the author is not pushing an agenda. However, I think it is important that we tackle these objections head-on. Since I do not have time to bring up every objection mentioned by every major website or news outlet, I would like to look at only a few and trust that others will catch the ones that I miss.
The Reason.com article states that "In Employment Division v. Smith, a small group of Native Americans who had been fired from their jobs because drug tests revealed their use of peyote made applications for unemployment compensation, which the State of Oregon denied. They appealed and claimed that their use of peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, could not be the basis for firing them from their jobs because it was a sacrament in their religion. The court ruled that the adherents to this religion had the same obligation to obey the laws that prohibit the use of peyote as all persons do." It should be pointed out that there is a difference between participating in an already illegal event because your religion demands it and refraining from participating in an event because your religion prohibits it. The first is the case in "Employment Division v. Smith", the second is the case here.
It should be pointed out here that this bill is not discriminatory against any group based on sexual orientation. In fact, the bill does not mention sexual orientation at all. The bill is an attempt to defend the religious rights of the people of Indiana.
The article goes on to state that the 1993 law signed into law by Bill Clinton allows for a "my religion made me do it" defense. This, however, is a straw man argument(2). Once again, we are not talking about Christians participating in an illegal activity, such as the use of illegal drugs, we are talking about Christians having the right to refrain from participating in events that violate that which is sacred to them. If this law is repealed, it would essentially allow for a "my sexual orientation made me do it" argument that would allow for a violation of the religious rights of the citizens of the state of Indiana. After all, if I ask Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, or Richard Dawkins to speak on a panel discussion on the existence of God at a Christian school and I am refused, what can I do? The answer is nothing, even if the real reason for the denial is because the school was a Christian school. Someone will always say that these people were too busy, it was too difficult to make it, etc. Here, the real excuse would be that their "belief that God does not exist made them do it", but another excuse is given. In this hypothetical case, the real reason for the denial is because the school is a Christian school, but it is easy to see that a case like this would go nowhere in a court of law. I would simply be told to find a different speaker.
In the same way, I cannot go to a Muslim caterer and ask him to cater an event and make pork the main dish. I cannot cry, "Discrimination!" if he refuses. It violates his religious beliefs, and he has the right to refuse to participate in the event if it violates his religious beliefs. I will simply find a different caterer, and he will not get my business. I cannot ask a Jewish caterer to serve frog legs or shellfish at an event, because it violates the dietary restrictions of Judaism. A devout Jew would have every right to decline to participate in an event where these foods are served, as would the Jewish caterer. The list goes on and on.
Forcing Christians to violate their religious beliefs by forcing them to participate in events that run contrary to their religious beliefs, then, is comparable to the logical fallacy of "special pleading"(3).
Near the end of the article, the author writes, "Goldwater paraphrased Thomas Jefferson, who argued that the only moral commercial transaction is one truly voluntary on the part of the buyer and the seller." What the author has against voluntary transactions between two people perplexes me. The author mentions that Senator Goldwater used this as an argument against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet it is fallacious to think that just because someone used something in the wrong way means that it is bad. For example, in World War II, the Nazis used both airplanes and guns for evil causes, but this doesn't mean that airplanes or guns are inherently bad in themselves. Rather, a transaction based on a mutual agreement between buyer and seller is a rather fair and civilized way to handle business. If the author of this article is correct, I agree that Senator Goldwater used this as an argument for the wrong purposes(4), but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a mutual agreement between buyer and seller in every transaction. In fact, this is essentially what happens when I go to Arby's to get a meal. When I pay for the food at the register, Arby's and I essentially enter into an agreement that:
1) I will pay them the amount they request.
2) They will provide me with the food that I paid for and in the manner that it is supposed to be prepared.
It appears to me that the entire push against this bill is not to protect the rights of the LGBT community. It seems to me that taking away this bill would force Christians to choose to violate their religious beliefs or be denied the right to own a business. I see no third option.
1) The article can be read at: http://reason.com/archives/2015/04/02/indiana-and-the-constitution.
2) In logic, a straw man argument occurs whenever a person misconstrues his or her opponent's position in order to attack the position. Instead of attacking the opponent's original argument, the person is essentially attacking an argument of his or her own creation.
3) In logic, special pleading occurs when the rules are not applied equally to both sides of an argument. For example, someone who dismisses the existence of Jesus because Jesus did not write anything, but accepts the existence of Socrates, who also did not write anything, is engaging in "special pleading" for his or her position.
4.) I do not know about Senator Goldwater's arguments. The only information I have is that which is provided by the author of the reason.com article cited above.
I just wanted to drop a little note reminding everyone that you can now get notified about updates to the site via email. Simply sign up for our mailing list on our home page. Simply hit the "Home" tab above, fill in the information in the form at the top of the page, and click "Subscribe." It's as easy as that!
In addition to this, I have just posted another podcast. For those who were missing this feature of the website, I intend to begin making them again. They will be free to download and, as always, free to listen to via this website. Simply click "Audio Podcasts" above in order to start listening.
Finally, we have added a donate button. Since this website was founded, everything that has gone into creating it has come straight out of my pocket. We have added Paypal's "Donate" button to this website in the hopes that, through generous donations from people like you, these donations will pay for the various fees that come with running a website (such as domain renewal, fees paid to the website host, etc.) Please consider donating, either as an individual or as part of a group. All proceeds go straight to the upkeep of this website and the spreading of the Gospel. None of it goes to my pocket. With that in mind, I want to thank those of you who will donate for your generous gifts. Thank you!
It has been some time since I last posted anything here. Yet I believe that this website has played, and will play, an important part in reaching people for Jesus, as well as in strengthening the faith of those of us who believe in Him. I have started one of the "read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year" plans, and I would like to invite anyone who visits this page to discuss Scripture with me. The Bible plan I am following is roughly similar to the one found at: http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan/book-order.html, and I would like to invite anyone who is willing to read along with me and discuss these passages of Scripture in the forums. I believe this will sharpen all of us mentally and spiritually, in the same way that "iron sharpens iron." (Proverbs 27:17). So pick up your Bible and read along!
With this post, I am starting something different. This didn't exactly fit into any of the devotionals, but I felt that it needed to be written. So it is here with the blog.
Lately, I have made a habit out of going outside at night to look at the stars. On a clear night, they are amazing to look at. Some of them are several light-years away, yet we can look up at night and see the different constellations. God is the best Artist ever!
As I was looking at the stars the other night, I couldn't help but think about God's omnipotence and omniscience. The same, all-powerful God Who created all of the stars and all of the constellations knows my every thought. He knows what I need before I ask for it. He knows me better than I know myself.
It hit me while I was out there. The things that I ask when I pray are so small, so miniscule. I want a good car. I want a nice apartment. I want some more good friends. These things are exactly that: wants. These things are good to have, but they are so minor in comparison to knowing God. I realized that, instead of praying for minor things, I should be praying to grow closer to God daily and that His will be done through my life, not mine. Everything else pales in comparison to knowing God.
Why post about this? I hope that every Christian who reads this post will pray for me, as well. In addition, I would like to offer this perspective on prayer to anyone who reads this post. Finally, I would like to pray for anyone who wants to grow closer to God, because it is important that we pray for one another.
Thanks to all who have listened to the Podcasts every Sunday night (or Monday morning). I have an announcement: every podcast is now available for download. You can download the podcast by looking under the player for the link. Right-click on this and select "Save As". It should download into an MP3 format. This means that you can play it on any device that can play MP3's! Furthermore, you should be able to drag it into your ITunes and listen to it on your Ipod, as well.
I would also like to inform you that we have made the outline for each podcast available for download, as well. If you do not have time to listen to the podcasts, you can download the outline and read over it at your own leisure. Or, you could look over the outline while listening to the podcast! Either way, these are now available for download, so you can listen to them on the go and share them with your friends.
Hello, and happy late New Year! Last year definitely went by faster than I would have liked. Since it is a new year, we have decided to do something a little different. Some of you may have already noticed that we are starting to do daily devotionals! I believe that it is important for all Christians to get a daily dose of the Bible, and that is exactly what we are aiming to do.
While we are here, I would also like to remind everyone that there will be a new podcast available every Sunday night. As of right now, we have three that are available. We are currently working on a project that will allow you to download the podcasts and listen to them on your MP3 player. Although there is not a definite time frame yet, I do not believe that this will be too much longer.
The final thing I would like to do is to encourage everyone who reads this to try to read through the Bible this year. I would encourage those of you who would prefer an audio Bible to download one of the free apps and listen to a couple of chapters each day. I will be doing the same, and would love to know that everyone that reads this is diving into the Bible head first.
Travis Stockelman is the Chapter Director for the Columbus, Indiana chapter of Reasonable Faith. He currently resides in Columbus, Indiana.