Showing posts from October, 2007

Challenges to Christian belief in the 21st Century

In a previous blog post John Loftus has been prognosticating about an imminent resurgence in scholarly unbelief, and says that he feels pity for those who have taken on themselves to defend evangelical Christianity. Triumphalist rhetoric aside, any intellectually honest apologist (whether religious or secular) will face up to the evolving nature of challenges to a particular belief system. Ever since Kuhn it has been widely recognized that the most difficult choice which any adherent of a particular intellectual paradigm has to face is whether the theoretical and evidential difficulties of that paradigm warrant abandoning it altogether, or these difficulties are merely apparent and the advantages of that paradigm outweigh the disadvantages. There is no hard and fast rule for deciding this. Obviously some people, like Loftus, have reached the former conclusion, while others like myself and the rest of CADRE still think that the evangelical Christian paradigm is worthy of adherence. That

Part 2 answering Loftus: Can the Resurrectin Be HIstorical?

I offer this peice as a second part of my answer to John, but it is not directed at his piece specifically. In fact it was put on my blog before I wrote the other piece and without any reference to John at all. But I think it does speak to part of the issue. There is something greatly incongruous about making historical statements concerning an event that is based upon the “supernatural.” The whole of modernity is based upon denying the supernatural, and upon creating an entire symbolic universe devoid of that concept. To interject the Resurrection into the modern truth rĂ©gime is to violate the basic canons of what it means to be modern. Thus, we should never expect to find historians hawking Josh McDowell books. If we find scientists supporting the doctrine, they will only do so by distinguishing between their private matters of taste in personal belief and scientific fact. Is this really an acceptable state of affairs? Fifty years ago it was a fact of life. It was just something th

Answering John Loftus part 1: History is Now, Revelation is Now

I find one thign that is sadly lacking in the New Atheists, while they are bright and engaged and eager to take on the world, they seem a bit myopic.An illustration of what I mean is seen in the works of John Loftus, atheist author and commenter on our blog, is fond of making the statement: God Chose A Very Poor Medium To Reveal Himself! By this he means History as the medium. As a would be historian, and history of ideas man at that, I feel moved to comment. Loftus, a former student of Willian Lane Craig, certainly has a good deal of knowledge in the world letters. Loftus is anythhing but an ignorant man. yet he seems to have left out an understanding of the liberal revisionary tradition of Christian theology, which is what I mean by "myopic." In a previous blog entry, here, I asked why so many professed Christians disagree with each other when interpreting the Bible. As a former Christian I had difficulty with why there were so many different ways that professed Christians

Autobiographical Atheism and Reason as the Enemy of Faith

I recently ran across this post at debunkingchristianity (DC) which credits Martin Luther with a quote attacking reason: Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. The gist of the post is that a young Christian had not really questioned his faith as he was growing up, but that once he did he saw all sorts of problems with it and abandoned it. There are no detailed substantive arguments, though the author alludes to atrocities in the Old Testament as conflicting with the kind God of the New and the creationist/evolutionist controversy. I am not sure how this atheist autobiography approach to de-evangelism pans out among most readers, but it usually strikes me as ineffective and a poor substitute for discussion over the ideas that may have lead to a loss of faith. Yet this tactic is a mainstay of DC as its contributors

The power of a Christ-filled life

In his interview with CADRE David Marshall stressed the overriding importance of evangelizing by example through a life of integrity and faithfulness to the Gospel. A fascinating survey published in Christianity Today lends credence to his views. The authors sent out a questionaire to about 750 Muslim converts over the past 15 years asking about the reasons the converted to Christianity. The main reason given was the lifestyle of Christians whom they encountered: "A North African former Sufi mystic noted with approval that there was no gap between the moral profession and the practice of Christians he saw." This is something which the New Atheists so conveniently overlook in their tirades against the inhumanity performed in the name of religion. Many Christians (gasp, surprise) actually do obey their Master's command to love enemies and minister to the poor. And they are not limited to 'exceptional' Christians like Mother Teresa. In fact, it is probably safe to

David Marshall Interview, Oct. 2007 (Part 2 of 2, "The New Atheism")

This is the second of two parts of an interview for the Cadre Journal, with Christian apologist David Marshall, who has released two books this year (through Harvest Home publishers); one on the topic of the promotion of alternate Gospel texts, and one on the topic of the New Atheism. (Please see Part One for more biographical information, and for the portion about “The Lost Gospels”.) Most recently this year, David published The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Chellenges to God and Christianity. David had left for Oxford on a speaking tour and research project by the time we did this portion of the interview. JP: Where did the term "New Atheism" come from anyway? Do the usual suspects gladly make use of it themselves? And if so, what do they see this as positively meaning in their favor? DM: Most "New Atheists" seem to think the term is somehow derogatory, and foisted on them by a cabal at Wheaton College or somewhere. Such is the way of

Julian, the Intolerant Pagan Emperor

Flavius Claudius Julianus was the last pagan Emperor of Rome. His reign followed those of Constaintine, the first Christian emperor, and several other self-professed Christian emperors. Rejecting the Christianity of his family, Julian sought to use his power as Emperor to restore Rome as a pagan society. Julian has become something of a hero to skeptics and atheists. According to the anti-Christian historian Edward Gibbons in his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “[Julian] extended to all the inhabitants of the Roman world the benefits of a free and equal toleration; and the only hardship which he inflicted on the Christians was to deprive them of the power of tormenting their fellow-subjects….” Such a portrayal, however, overstates the intolerance of the early Christian emperors as well as the tolerance of the pagan Julian. As noted by Rodney Stark in his new book, Cities of God : For Constantine neither outlawed paganism nor condoned persecution of non-Christians. In

David Marshall Interview, Oct. 2007 (Part 1 of 2, "The Lost Gospels")

The Christian Cadre is pleased to present, in two parts, an interview with Christian apologist David Marshall, who has released two books this year (through Harvest Home publishers); one on the topic of the promotion of alternate Gospel texts, and one on the topic of the New Atheism. David was a missionary, a teacher, and a student of comparative religion in East Asia for 13 years, during which time he also did what he could to help prostitutes sold into slavery in Taiwan. After teaching at Siebold University in Japan, he moved to the United States to start Kuai Mu Institute. He now lives in Seattle with his wife and children; but travels around the United States, the Pacific Rim and (during this October) the United Kingdom on research trips and speaking engagements. His first three books were: • True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture (1996, revised 2002) • Jesus and the Religions of Man (2000) and • Why the Jesus Seminar Can’t Find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Cou

The New Atheism: The CADRE Launches a Page Devoted to Responding to the New Atheists

The CADRE is launching a new page: Answering the New Atheists Page description: Do the “New Atheists” offer anything new? Other than their level of vitriol, it is questionable. Nevertheless, they are at least posing the old questions and making the old arguments with renewed vigor and evangelistic zeal. This page meets the challenge and offers responses. At present, the sections included are: * The New Atheism * Richard Dawkins * Christopher Hitchens * Sam Harris * Daniel Dennett * Resources About the New Atheism The resources includes articles, book reviews, debates, and books, all devoted to their respective subject. Please let us know if you have any other candidates for special treatment on the page or resources that we missed.

Study Shows Atheists Devalue Love, Patience, Forgiveness, Generosity, and Friendship

That is the conclusion of a Canadian study performed by the University of Lethbridge. Here is a description of the methodology: The survey of 1,600 Canadian adults, led by University of Lethbridge professor Reginald Bibby, gave a list of 12 values - from honesty to family life to politeness to generosity - and asked the participants if they found each "very important." In each case, theists ranked the values as more important than atheists. Professor Bibby concludes that religion plays an important role in the transmission and reinforcement of these values. As religious influence diminishes in Canada, no apparent alternative source has come forward. He said people who are believers are encouraged ­- whether by a desire to please God, or because of a fear of God - to adopt these values. "If you don't have that as a major source in the culture then what will be the source? I think that's where we've been really superficial ... we've really been underest

Article on Marcion Available in Revised Form

For four years, Peter Kirby hosted a number of my articles at his Christian Origins site. The site has been down for a while now, so I have started reformatting and revising those articles and hosting them at the Christian CADRE site. The first article now available is Marcion, the Canon, the Law, and the Historical Jesus . Moderately revised, it is an overview of Marcion's background, teachings, and effect on the development of early Christianity.

Atheist Gunman at School; Atheist Hitchens Assaults Priest

You have probably heard about the school shooting in Cleveland. A student at a magnet school showed up on campus yesterday and shot two fellow students and two of his teachers. He then killed himself with his own gun. Fortunately, his victims will recover. What has gotten less play is what prompted the shooting spree. The student, Asa Koon, was an atheist. The previous day he had gotten into an argument about the existence of God that was broken up by a teacher. During the argument, he said things like "F--- God!" It appears that after class, he got in a physical altercation with a theist student over their previous argument about God's existence. This too was broken up by a teacher and both students were suspended. Two days later, Koon showed up with two handguns and proceeded to hunt down specific teachers, shooting one of them and two students and another teacher who got in his way. In other news , atheist dogmatist Christopher Hitchens assaulted a 62-year ol

NewsFlash: Christians Seen Negatively

Sometimes newspapers publish stories that are so unsurprising that they hardly pass for news. One such story was published by the USA Today on their religion page entitled Study: Youth see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay . The article begins: Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label. Yeah? And this is news because . . . ? The idea that Christianity is "judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay" is not news. These allegations are really rather old. The idea that Christians are judgmental goes with the territory: most Christians accept the orthodox view that there is such a thing as truth -- "true truth" as Francis Schaeffer labelled it -- and that people can be wrong about issues of spirituality. Christians take a position that the only path to God is thro

Flawed design or scientific shortsightedness?

Here is a very interesting news brief on some recent biological research on the appendix. A team of researchers has proposed that the appendix may not be a useless organ after all. It may have an important part to play in synthesizing and protecting 'good' bacteria that line the intestinal track. What's interesting about this research is that the appendix has long been a favorite example of an evolutionary 'fluke' that a good Designer would not equip our bodies with, according to skeptics. What if more such flukes turn out to be useful after all? Would that provide supporting evidence for the design hypothesis? I'm not sure either way, because of the massive complexity of the biological process. But it does provide some food for thought.

Termites and Caananites

Knowing full well that some atheist will accuse me of justifying genocide, I wanted to look another time at the account of the destruction of the Canaanites upon the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land as recorded in the Book of Joshua. Naturally, these verses cause a great deal of problems for most people, and they should. To accept blindly the complete and utter destruction of "all of the inhabitants" of various cities (such as Jericho [Jos. 6:21] and Ai [Jos. 8:26]) without being concerned about the extent of the destruction would show a lack of compassion that would be disturbing. However, saying that one should examine the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the peoples is not the equivalent of saying that one should immediately assume that such destruction was definitely wrongful. This is where many knee-jerk atheists make their mistake. While they accuse Christians of being the ones who are unable to see nuances in positions, a total disregard of th