Showing posts from April, 2011

There is no presumption of atheism

In a recent post I excerpted some quotes from Robin Le Poidevin's recent book Agnosticism on the moral argument. In this post I want to share some more quotes from the book on the presumption of atheism. I wanted to title it, 'An atheist denies the presumption of atheism', but the more I read, the more convinced I am that he cannot possibly be an atheist. The book seems to be, not merely a description of agnosticism, but a strong positive argument in its favor. Therefore, unless Le Poidevin is merely writing 'speech in character', it seems that he is an agnostic. Nevertheless, he provides a very convincing rebuttal to the presumption of atheism, which is relevant to the discussion between Christians and atheists. Le Poidevin begins by describing the presumption of atheism as follows: Atheism doesn't require defense. Rather, it is up to theists to convince us that there is a God. Unless they can do so, we can remain comfortable in our disbelief. Only if they pr

Passion and Atonement -- After Word, Fore Word

The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 57, can be found here. If the reader arriving at the site for Easter Day wants a quick overview of why all the things I've been talking about for +700 pages matter, please see my Easter Sermon from last year 2010 ( "Why It All Matters" -- don't panic, it's only five minutes' reading tops. {g}) This book has been my testimony, for why I believe what I do. Despite its length, and its frequent complexity, it comes down to this: why am I a Christian? The thrust of my argument throughout my book, has pointed toward the conclusion that I should expect God to act in our history in certain ways. I have tried to allow for a potentially wide range of variables in how those actions will someday be (or have already been) carried out. I have even tried not to hang the story entirely on the timeframe in which I think the story actually was carried out. But I do think the story has been carri

Passion and Atonement -- The Sword To The Heart

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 56, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 57.] God. Is. Dead. God is dead!! Just as we always knew: He can die! Now we are free, free of Him, free to be the gods we want to be, free to be our own laws, our own inheritance! Free to decide what is good or evil! We live, though God is dead! We have overthrown the Highest, beat the Invincible! ...well ...we didn't actually 'beat' Him; He gave up the game. But we always wanted to make Him give up on us anyway, yes? Then we would show Him that we didn't need Him, that we could outlast Him! Ah, but this is even better! We showed Him that His hope is futile, that the Truth which surrenders itself will be digested and expelled as waste! He put Himself at the mercy of His own creations, and we killed Him! What did the Great Fool think?? That people would just fawn over Him for showing up late to the party!? That af

An atheist(?) defends the moral argument

Robin le Poidevin is the author of an introduction to philosophy of religion called Arguing for Atheism , which atheist blogger Austin Cline calls "one of the best books on atheism which is currently available." More recently he has contributed the Very Short Introduction to Agnosticism for Oxford University Press. I have been unable to ascertain whether he is a full-blown atheist or an agnostic, but at the very least he is highly skeptical about religion, which makes his comments about morality and conscience all the more remarkable. They are presented in the context of demonstrating the ultimate ambiguity of all arguments for the existence of God, but they seem to me to lean very much in the theistic direction. To reverse well-known expression, with enemies like this, who needs friends? We all know what it is like to have a conscience, and it sometimes gives us a hard time. But what is the source of this thing that prompts us to certain actions, makes us refrain from oth

Passion and Atonement -- The Price For Our Sins

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 55, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 56.] It's only fair--isn't it? God will intentionally set Himself up, to be rejected by all His people: by His special chosen who carried His light, and by His other children who perhaps have been doing the best they can with what they have. Not only those who we might consider desperately evil will reject Him, but those we would be inclined to consider the very best. For even the best of us have sinned, abusing the grace of God Most High. He will have done plenty of things, to show He is good; but He will also give them just enough rope to hang Him, if they want to--on His own timing, if not theirs. And the unjust of this world--very likely even some of the (relatively) just ones who just don't understand!--will want to hang Him. The unjust of any worlds intersecting this one, will certainly want to hang Him, too. Why, you ask, w

Passion and Atonement -- The Good News

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 54, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 55.] I have no clear idea of how this Child would think, as He grows into manhood. God will have poured Himself out, continuing to enact His own specific part in the story of humanity. We might say the finger of God will be gently touching the earth; a mere hum of His voice; a finite trickle out of the river of His eternity. I can only use metaphors, and I am well aware of the problems involved in imagining this accurately--which, I am also well aware, is likely to prove a stumbling block for an honest sceptic. But I appeal to the reasonableness of what I have said before. I am quite sure God exists, and has particular characteristics including a particular personal character. I am quite sure of my own sin and corrupted character. And I am reasonably sure of how this all fits together. Consequently, I am quite sure that sooner or later, God

Passion and Atonement -- The Son of God

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 53, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 54.] To this lynchpin people, at the heart of a world ready to hear the news, God will act, and send Himself, to be God with us, Immanuel. A great Light will shine in this wilderness, a light for all the chosens: for those whom God had told they were chosen, and for those still searching, and for those who have trudged or have flown past hope into outright despair; for the good men and women and children, such as they are... ...but most especially for the enemies of God--who are all of us, sinners. Within all the work God does, He lets us sinners have our own way, because He loves us too much to let us be something other than real boys and girls. But this produces a hideous disparity. It looks like God doesn't exist. It looks like God doesn't care. It looks like God is a monster. So what, if I say that God suffers, too!? That is a

Passion and Atonement -- The Harmony of Dissonance

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 52, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 53.] I could follow Abram through his story--history or legend or both as we have it. But I would rather show, if I can, the intrinsic harmony underlying this odd and disturbing story--a harmony I could expect the general principles of, if I know enough of God beforehand to have some clue how He will work. So, I will go back instead to our nameless chosen ancestor of the knowledge of God, as if I did not already know to suspect his name. He may not get along very quickly with his knowledge--or more precisely with his learning. But it would be important to teach him that God works slowly, sometimes through channels seeming at first to be unprofitable. The lesson might be almost anything, so long as it is linked to the filling of a promise, in a fashion that this man, and people like him throughout the world in later history, could easily appr

Passion and Atonement -- A People Chosen

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 51, can be found here. ] [This entry constitutes Chapter 52.] It is the beginning of a history--not of all humanity’s history, not of Nature, but of a particular story enacted by God, with us and for us, within the Nature we inhabit. God is beginning His greatest adventure: giving us hope in this life. For we --live-- in this life!--and God is committed to this Nature and to us, the synthetic persons He has molded, shaped, grown, begotten, within the womb of our mother. But quickly or slowly or some combination thereof, God will do it in His own time; for His purpose is not to provide some technical 'method of salvation'. Salvation from sin is a personal act, an act of God to co-operate with us as persons, and act of ours in response to the graces of God the Merciful and the Compassionate. But He wants people in this history, sooner or later, to know more about Him and what His love t

Craig Keener's Case for the Historical Jesus, Part II

In the previous post in this series I presented some quotes from Craig Keener's recent book, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, relevant to some general questions about the nature of the Gospels. In this post I include quotes from Keener on Luke-Acts in particular. I will continue to follow the Q&A format. Why should we think that Luke-Acts is historical and strives to present an accurate account of the beginning of Christianity? Various factors support the thesis that Luke conceives of his project as primarily a history. Unlike a novel, Luke uses sources abundantly in his first volume (usually agreed to be at least Mark and "Q") and presumably in his second volume as well, although we cannot distinguish the sources clearly in Acts. Luke's claim to investigate or have close acquaintance with his information (Lk 1:3) fits historical works, and his occasional use of the first-person plural (e.g., Acts 16:10) emphasizes the involvement considered ideal for a good