Saturday, August 12, 2006

Blinded by the light

Unbelievers often complain about a lack of evidence. But the quality or quantity of evidence is not the real issue.

Evidence is a necessary condition of a well-founded faith, but it’s not a sufficient condition.

Faith apart from evidence is blind, but evidence apart from faith is blinding.

For example, there’s a militant atheist out there whose motto is: “If Jesus returns, kill him again.”

No amount of evidence can overcome that pathological hatred, because the impediment to faith is not the absence of evidence, but the object of evidence.

If the evidence we have is evidence of an unwelcome truth, then the state of the evidence, however probative or apodictic, will not render an unwelcome truth any more appealing.

Indeed, the unbeliever will resent the evidence of an unwelcome truth. He would rather live in denial. The more evidence you throw his way, the more resentful he becomes.

There are unbelievers who major in moral objections to the Christian faith. They have their litany of complaints against the morality of Scripture.

They make a big deal about this to make themselves feel justified or even virtuous in their infidelity.

But assuming that we take their protestations seriously, then no amount of evidence, however compelling, for the existence of the Biblical God, would ever be sufficient to reconcile them to the Biblical God.

In their loathing of all things divine, there is no bridge which they have left untorched. They whine about hell, but they’d rather be miserable than pious.

They have convinced themselves, or so they say, that the God of Scripture is a hateful God. So even if they believed in him, they would despise him. If they had a private audience with Jesus, they’d kill him again.

If you live in the Sunbelt, it doesn’t take long for you to learn that cockroaches are largely nocturnal critters. They prefer to move in the dark.

Sinners are a lot like cockroaches. They dislike an abundance of light. Not so much because they’re afraid to see, but because they’re afraid to be seen.

Too much evidence is like too much light. You don’t like what you see, especially when it exposes your own position. It’s hard to hide in the light.

As the Apostle John put it long ago: “This is the judgment—that light has entered the world and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. Everybody who does wrong hates the light and keeps away from it, for fear his deeds may be exposed” (Jn 3:19-20).

19 comments:

  1. To quote Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead" (Lk 16).

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  2. In the final analysis, our prejudices are too strong for us to examine any evidence objectively. Often a person will say 'well, I changed my mind on this, that or the other.' What the person in question normally mentions is something which has absolutely no consequences for their life. However, if the claims of the Gospel are true, these people for the most part would have to drop certain bad habits.

    For most atheists there is a pyschological barrier beyond that of evidence. For some it is pride. After all, once a person has put their opinion on the line, it is hard to step away. For others there is life. The number of atheists who cite Christian sexual mores as a reason for rejecting Christianity is amazingly high. Respectfully, I would suggest that it is these persons who have a problem with sex, not Christians. Yet others recognise the commitment that Christianity would require them to make and cannot see themselves making that commitment.

    And you know, these folks have a point. They do chide us. Often we, as Christians can be proud, despite saying that we are sinners saved by grace. If it is all of grace, what do we have to be proud of? Those who recognise the changes they'd have to make see more clearly than some nominal Christians, even those who profess to have been born again. Remember the polls that show the rate of divorce among professing 'born again' Christians is the same as that among the general population in America. Yet, let the pollsters look at the committed, those who put themselves out for Christ, the levels are lower. It is commitment that makes the difference, changed lives that challenge.

    And, you know, I think a great deal of atheists understand the things of God a lot better than we Christians do. That is the tragedy of modern Western Christianity. No commitment necessary, no changed life required. Unbelievers know instinctively that we Christians should exhibit changed lives, should show more compassion and humility. Unbelievers expect the Church to be radically different from the world.

    If we as Christians were less hypocritical than we are (and I include myself in these words), would not one of the obstacles before atheists that dishonours God be removed, and replaced with an obstacle that honours King Jesus?

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  3. Hiraeth,

    I enjoy the comments that you make and I agree that as Christians we so often blow our witness. As my personal journey takes me from a legalistic upbringing into a better understanding of the Doctrines of Grace, the conviction to truly love my neighbors has deepened.

    If we as Christians were less hypocritical than we are (and I include myself in these words), would not one of the obstacles before atheists that dishonours God be removed, and replaced with an obstacle that honours King Jesus?

    Language well-chosen. For often if we do live lives that honor our King we are often told that the reason we do this is for our eternal reward and it is therefore self-centered and less moralistic than the atheist who does it simply because. (Though that's hardly true either). The truth is I'd be happy simply being a beggar in paradise.

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  4. Amen and Amen.

    'How pleasant it is when brethren dwell in unity.'

    We are too easily distracted by the things of the world. Too easily we fall intoliving as the worldling does, chasing rainbows, trying to catch moonbeams, to drain the sea with a sieve. I came across these phrases last week:

    'But I find that it is not easy to exchange the lesser for the greater, fools that we are. We refuse to put time’s coin into the slot & take from the drawer eternity itself. But do as we will that is the lesson we have to learn. What is mortality? A gown we put on in the bedroom as we go into the Bathroom to get ready for the Eternal Day! Then is it so difficult to divest ourselves of so transient a thing? And is not “putting on immortality” a grander Investiture?'

    Evan Roberts.

    These were the words of one who had truly 'been with God.' Let us who so often fall be not proud but humble, let us offer to mankind 'a cup of cold water', all the while praying that such as recieve it should recieve our master gladly also.

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  5. The morality of Scripture, eh?
    Sorry, but I reject the idea that it's MORAL for a prophet (Elisha) to have bears tear up little kids because they teased him for being bald. I REJECT the notion that it's moral to stone a woman to death who was raped who didn't yell "NO" loud enough for the town to hear her. I REJECT slavery as immoral, no matter what St. Paul says about it. I reject the notion that a man is great because he would stick in a knife in his son's stomach at the request of the invisible floating God in the sky.

    Yes, I reject all of this nonsense, and I have NO respect for any man who preaches it while calling ME an immoral fool for not believing in it.


    - Todd

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  6. And for your intemperance, Todd, I forgive you. Also for your self-righteousness. I pray that God may open your eyes, and that your ange may abate, and that your pride, with my pride, may be humbled.

    Believe me, Todd, I bear you no ill-will. I see in you the man I once was, and can only pray that you will become a better person than I.

    I have respect for all men, at least I try to, although, being but a man myself I often fail. I should hate for you to stand amongst the lost on judgement day, hate to see you condemned to continue in sin for all eternity. And yes, I do weep for you in love.

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  7. Todd: The morality of Scripture, eh?

    SH: The morality of Todd, eh?

    Todd: Sorry, but I reject the idea that it's MORAL for a prophet (Elisha) to have bears tear up little kids because they teased him for being bald.

    SH: You seem to be basing this gem on the rendering of 2 Kgs 2:23-24 in the KJV. Did you get that from the Skeptics Annotated Bible?

    Be that as it may, the Hebrew word (narim) doesn’t mean “little kid.” For example, it’s used of Absalom (2 Sam 14:21), who was not a little kid.

    It’s used of young adults.

    And 42 of them?

    Picture that for a moment. What we're talking about is a violent mob or street gang. Elisha felt threatened.

    How would anyone feel if he were surrounded by an angry, marauding mob of 42 gang-bangers?

    God intervened to defend his endangered servant.

    As a matter of simple self-respect, it wouldn’t hurt you to just occasionally know what you’re talking about before your make a public fool of yourself.

    Todd: I REJECT the notion that it's moral to stone a woman to death who was raped who didn't yell "NO" loud enough for the town to hear her.

    SH: Todd is alluding to Deut 23:23-24.

    i) If you actually read it, you’ll see that both the man and the woman are subject to stoning.

    Either Todd is too dishonest to mention that fact, or he’s too ignorant because he’s getting all his info spoon-fed from the Skeptics Bible or some other monument of cutting-edge erudition.

    ii) The law is actually a deterrent to rape. In small-town village life, in a culture with extended families, there would be people nearby to hear the cries of a rape victim.

    In that case, only the man would be executed. And if it occurred in the open field, only the man would be executed.

    If there’s any double standard in play, it’s the presumptive innocence of the woman, and the presumptive guilt where the man.

    Far from being misogynistic, this is amazingly egalitarian for an ANE law code.

    Todd: I REJECT slavery as immoral, no matter what St. Paul says about it.

    SH: What Paul says about it was that it’s better to be free than to be enslaved (1 Cor 7:21).

    Since Todd rejects Paul’s position, Todd must believe that it’s better to be enslaved than to be free.

    Todd: I reject the notion that a man is great because he would stick in a knife in his son's stomach at the request of the invisible floating God in the sky.

    SH: Since the sacrifice of Isaac is counterfactual, Todd must mean that he rejects Gen 22 because Abraham did not sacrifice his son, whereas he’d accept Gen 22 if Abraham did sacrifice his son.

    Todd: Yes, I reject all of this nonsense.

    SH: Yes, he rejects it without bothering to offer any supporting argument.

    Long on attitude, short on reason.

    Todd: And I have NO respect for any man who preaches it.

    SH: Oh, dear. Todd doesn’t respect me. I’d better order some Prozac.

    Todd: While calling ME an immoral fool for not believing in it.

    SH: Actually, I never said that Todd was an immoral fool.

    Todd is like a guy who walks into the police station to announce that he didn’t kill the victim on the front page of the morning paper.

    Since innocent people don’t volunteer their innocence unless and until they’re wrongly accused, methinks that Todd doth protest too much.

    Here’s a little homework assignment for Todd:

    1.Do you believe in moral absolutes? If not, now would be a good time to shut up.

    2.If so, now would be a good time to mount a rational argument for secular ethics.

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  8. You know, Todd, instead of bringing up these borrowed objections from the junkyard of derelict secular objections to the faith, why don’t you come out and say what your real problem is?

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  9. I think somebody needs a hug.

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  10. Steve asks: "Do you believe in moral absolutes?"

    Yes.

    Killing is wrong, unless it's for the Lord, in which case, "slaying old and young, both maids, and little children, and women" is acceptable. (Joshua 6:21-27, Ezekiel 9:4-6, etc. etc. ad infinitum)

    Rape is wrong, unless the Lord has allowed you to take a woman without her consent (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) in which case it's AOK.
    ("When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house ... but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you UNDER COMPULSION." )

    Is this what you mean by "moral absolutes", Steve?

    I'll enjoy reading your windy analysis and justification of these passages. It's quite entertaining!

    - Todd

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  11. Craig,

    Hugs are pro-rated. Two hugs per chapter for memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and four hugs per chapter for memorizing the Westminster Longer Catechism.

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  12. A typical evasion by Todd:

    1. Whenever you answer his last set of objections, he ignores the answers and raises a new set of objections.

    2. His new objections are old objections which Gene or Jason and I have already addressed at one time or another.

    3. He offers no intellectual defense of secular ethics.

    Todd is a moral and intellectual freeloader. Very opinionated, but unable to defend his opinions by reason and evidence.

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  13. Steve said:

    Hugs are pro-rated. Two hugs per chapter for memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and four hugs per chapter for memorizing the Westminster Longer Catechism.

    Yeah, I guess that means Todd won't be getting any hugs, since he only cares what skeptics and critics of the Bible have to say about it instead of what learned men of God like the Westminster divines have to say.

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  14. Craig says that I "only care what skeptics and critics of the Bible have to say about it instead of what learned men of God like the Westminster divines have to say"

    Learned men of God like John Calvin? Yeah, he was a great guy. I believe he watched a guy slowly burn to death for having the wrong ideas about the Trinity. Of course, Calvin was quite charitable: he recommended a speedy beheading instead of the more tortuous burning.

    Quite some heroes you guys have.

    While I realize that Calvinists despise Catholics, you do realize that your explanations are no different than the Catholics' defense of Torquemada (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14783a.htm) whose wickedness has been "exaggerated". After all, "ONLY 2000 Jews were burnt as impenitent sinners"

    Talk about moral relativism!

    - Todd

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  15. Todd, old man. You seem to be labouring under a misapprehension. The Westmister Divines were a group of British Clergymen from the Seventeenth Century. Among them were the saintly Jeremiah Burroughs, a man who wrote a book on healing the differences between Christians and, as an Idependent, did not believe the state had any coercive power with regard to religion; Thomas Goodwin, another Independent; and Samuel Rutherford, the Presbyterian Divine.

    Yes, I think Calvin was wrong to have Servetus burned. His error sprang from his failure to recognise that the identification of the Church with the population of a given territory was wrong. Trouble was, due to this identification, Servetus was seen as an enemy of the state, not simply an heretic. Similarly, Torquemada acted in a way he thought was right. Sadly, he was mistaken, as were those Protestants who thought to chage the consciences of men with the flame or the noose. It took much blood and much tragedy before the true nature of the Church was widely accepted. That of the visible community of the Saints, called out of the world (Independency/Free Church).

    I, for one, despise no man, Todd. I once had a very nice Catholic Landlady. The painted crucifix in the kitchen was a bit disconcerting, but she was a model of love and tolerance.

    Now, may I suggest a general rule of historical interpretation. If a thing was viewed as horrid and evil at the time, out of the ordinary if you will, we are free to condemn the persons who did it out of hand, as they should have known better (e.g. the Fourth Crusade, the executions of hundreds of Protestants by Mary Tudor). However, something that, however wicked it seems at the time, was normal practice, cannot be condemned out of hand without recourse to the unhistorical method of judging the past by modern standards (most of the Crusades, the burning of anti-Trinitarian heretics by the magisterial reformers, the age of some of Muhammad's wives at marriage).

    And believe me, Todd, I do not despise you, indeed, I try to despise no man. 'There but for the Grace of God goes John Newton.'

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  16. And, of course, the best of men are but men at best. If you have an aversion to authors involved in persecution, may I suggest the following authors:

    J. Gresham Machen (kicked out of Princeton Seminary for differing from the Modernists)
    Jeremiah Burroughs (removed from his Church by Bishop Wren for Puritanism)
    Samuel Rutherford (imprisoned for his faith)
    Charles Spurgeon (censured by the Baptist Union for opposing modernism)
    J.I Packer

    None of the above have doled out persecution, although most were on the receiving end. Now, might I respectfully ask whether you're prepared to defend any one of your proof-texts, or whether you intend to remain a moving target? You must realise that constant evasions create the (probably quite unfair) impression of shiftiness.

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  17. Todd: Killing is wrong, unless it's for the Lord, in which case, "slaying old and young, both maids, and little children, and women" is acceptable. (Joshua 6:21-27, Ezekiel 9:4-6, etc. etc. ad infinitum)

    SH: The Bible doesn’t say that killing is wrong, only to carve out a special exception. The Bible distinguishes between murder and justifiable homicide.

    Gene, Jason, and I have devoted a fair amount of time on OT warfare, both holy war and conventional war.

    Gene, in particular, recently talked about the real world options in the ANE for the disposition of war captives.

    As always, Todd raises objections, but fails to engage the argumentation.

    Todd is a phony. If he were raising sincere objections, he would pay attention to the answers, and either show some flaw in the reasoning, or if he was unable to do so, withdraw his original objection.

    Instead, he moves from one set of sham objections to another.

    Todd: Rape is wrong, unless the Lord has allowed you to take a woman without her consent (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) in which case it's AOK.
    ("When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house ... but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you UNDER COMPULSION." )

    SH:

    1.The disposition of female POWs is a special case of the general predicament which Gene, among others, has already addressed.

    2.Beyond that, I’d say something else.

    In the ANE, marriages were arranged marriages. They were marriages of convenience, negotiated by the paterfamilias or elder brother with his counterpart.

    Marriage was an economic institution, concerned with legitimate lines of inheritance as well as provision for the elderly.

    In a tribal society, land was common property, belonging to the respective clan.

    This the primary reason for the patriarchal custom of endogamy.*

    And there was no welfare state to care for the elderly.

    Todd is judging Deut 21:10-14 by the anachronistic model of legally and financially independent men and women in a society structured by the nuclear families who fall in love and tie the knot. But ANE marriage was never consensual in that romantic, libertarian sense.

    Aside from the fact that the contemporary model has not been distinguished by its stability, it assumes a socioeconomic infrastructure which was nonexistent in the ANE.

    *BTW, I believe it was Todd who earlier noted an apparent or actual discrepancy between patriarchal customs and the Mosaic Law, with its forbidden degrees of consanguinity.

    But this would furnish evidence for the historical accuracy of the respective accounts. If the Pentateuch were composed during the Babylonian Exile, then the redactors would lack the historical know-how to distinguish between patriarchal customs and the Mosaic Law. Rather, they’d unwittingly retroject a 1st millennium perspective on both epochs.

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  18. Todd, you said,

    "I believe he watched a guy slowly burn to death for having the wrong ideas about the Trinity."

    Let me try to offer some help. I'm talking to you as a fellow atheist now. As men like Dan Barker, Truthwarrior and myself have pointed out, men are no different or better than broccoli. So, Calvin liked to fry his broccoli and cut the head off of it, you like to boil it and eat it whole. Either way it's a subejctive choice.

    Anyway, thanks for all the fine work you do debunking Steve Hays. Maybe you could stop by my bog and check out my arguments. Steve has replied to you many times because he thinks you're easy blog fodder. You'll note that he's NOT ONCE responded to ANY of my arguemnts.

    Anyway, I'm just trying to help out. From one atheist to another.

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  19. I like to peel my brocolli, then remove its head. Slowly, with a big hunting knife.

    The Green Man will make his presence known

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