Friday, November 21, 2014

By definition, God can't be love

I've heard it over and over, 'God is love'. Christians will often gush this sentiment with a smile plastered across their face. But why do they do this when the Bible clearly shows that God can't be, and isn't, love?

They will cite 1 John 4:8 as their proof.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
But the Bible goes on to do what it does best... Contradict itself!
for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God...
-Deuteronomy 6:15
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous...
-1 Corinthians 13:4
So according tho the testimony of those two verses, God can't be love because he is jealous. But the rest of 1Corinthians 13:4-5 is even more damning...
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs.
Love is kind: Like when God allowed Job's entire family to be killed to win a bet?

Love isn't jealous: We already covered that one...

Love doesn't sing its own praises: Like when God bragged about all that he has done in Job 38?

Love isn't arrogant: What part of creating us solely to love and worship him isn't arrogant?

Love isn't rude: His bet that screwed over Job was pretty rude. So was condoning slavery and commanding rape victims to marry their rapist.

Love doesn't think about itself: The whole demanding to be worshiped deal is a pretty big deal breaker here.

Love isn't irritable: Irritable like commanding and leading genocides (including a global one) because he didn't get his way or people were worshiping other gods?

Love doesn't keep track of wrongs: So what about sin then? If there's no tracking of wrongs does everyone just get into Heaven then?

It should be clear that the Bible is quite contradictory, and those contradictions can often show how ridiculous some Christian claim really are. The Bible may say that God is love, but is also proves that he can't be many more times.


-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

What would Paul do?

Is there a line in the sand where God simply won't have you?
Dear Rev. Graham: How bad do you have to be before God won't have anything to do with you? I've lived a pretty wild life and I'm in jail now. Two men on my block have become Christians and are urging me to do the same, but I honestly can't believe God could ever forgive me. -- M.H.
Seeing how the vast majority of US inmates are Christians, they are in good company. And considering the recidivism rate in our country, it doesn't seem that even new followers of Christ change their stripes any. A study found just this year that 67.8% of US inmates are arrested again within three years, and 76.6% within five years of being released.
A: God has promised to forgive anyone -- without exception -- who truly repents of their sin and by faith commits their life to Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21).
Which just goes to show that there's nothing about Christian salvation that incentivises the person to be good. You can kill the pope and still get into Heaven if you believe in Jesus as your savior. So to answer MH's question, there is no 'too much' for God. He'll forgive anything in exchange for another thought slave to add to his army...
You've probably heard of the Apostle Paul, whom some have called the greatest Christian who ever lived.
Whoa! Paul? The Greatest Christian? Talk about revealing or a case of setting one's sights quite low!
But do you know his story? He grew up convinced that Jesus was a liar and a fraud, and that His followers were both deceived and dangerous to society.
So he didn't see any evidence that Jesus was telling the truth? And here we are 2000 odd years later, still with no evidence that Jesus was who he said he was, or that he even existed at all...
How could God ever forgive someone like that? But He did -- and God not only forgave Paul, but also sent him into the world to tell others about the new life Christ offers to all who put their trust in Him.
And then Paul's teachings were the source of much misogyny. Many views attributed to Paul include 1 Corinthians: 33-35
As in all the churches of the holy one, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate even as the law says. If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.
 1 Timothy 2: 9-15
Similarly (too) women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and golden ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. A woman must receive instructions silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
 Corinthians 11:3-9
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
 Ephesians 5:22-30
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church— or we are members of his body.
 If this guy is the greatest Christian, my opinion of Christianity just plummeted! 


-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The science delusion?

A new book tries to counter The God Delusion by claiming science has the same problems atheists claim that religion has... Huh?
Despite their prevalence and the millions of copies of books they have sold, the so-called “New Atheists” have a big problem. These authors, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, have fallen victim to the same thing they spend so much of their writing critiquing: religiosity.
How? They aren't religious, so  how can there be religiosity. Is there passion there? Sure, but that's something different.
When an avowed leftist like Noam Chomsky, far from a traditional theist by any definition, calls Hitchens and Harris “religious fanatics”, clearly something has gone amuck
Indeed. It means that Chomsky has no idea what 'religious fanatic' means.
Richard Dawkins and his supporters completely overlooked the religious associations that are bound with the “Out Campaign”, an advocacy movement wherein atheists wear lapels with the scarlet letter “A” as a sign of their being ostracized by society.
Wearing an 'A' pin doesn't make atheists religious. The folks that work at my bank wear pins of the bank logo. Is my bank a religion too? What about US flag pins, sports team pins, or any other kind of pins? The claim made here is just sad.
Such an unironic appropriation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel shows the New Atheists’ blindness to the fact that fanaticism and zeal are not exclusive to religion.
I've never heard anyone ever claim that. This is not new news to me, nor do I think it would be news to any atheist one were to speak to. 
New Atheists are likely to applaud the line that opens Carl Sagan’s famous Cosmos: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” One doesn’t need to be an advanced philosopher to recognize that judgment is not scientific, but metaphysical. The claims made by New Atheists, claims that fall under the umbrella of “scientism”, are as grandiose and as easy to make as “God created everything that is, ever was, or will be.”
Scientism? Great, he's one of those guys that make up a word to try and pass science off as bad or claim that atheists don't actually follow real science...

As for the Sagan mention, Brice is missing the point. An atheist will likely agree with Sagan, but at the same time I'm not going to claim it as absolutely, unmovingly true like those that claim God is eternal. In short, our minds can be changed. Show us evidence that what Sagan said wasn't correct and we will discard that stance and change our mind. But the believer that says God is just eternal never will. This makes the two examples offered completely different.
His rebuttal to scientism begins with a seemingly benign example from Dawkins’ The God Delusion, where Dawkins describes a lunch he had with Jim Watson. He deems that lunch was “a good lunch.” White’s question for Dawkins is simple: “What’s a good lunch?” Using the metrics that one could reasonably justify from the framework of evolutionary biology, it’s not clear what “good” would mean as Dawkins uses it.
More word games? Why is it so hard for some to understand that comparative terms like good or bad make sense coming from an atheist or believer alike?
As White rightly observes, terms like “good”, “dazzle”, and “amazement”, which are often invoked by scientists in describing the grandeur of the universe and scientific discovery, “[don’t have] anything to do with the practice of science.” Even descriptive words that do have scientific merit, such as “complexity”, do not in themselves explain anything more than what they are describing. Saying that the cosmos is “beautiful” because of its complexity says nothing other than that it is complex.
Sigh...  Scientists are allowed to use descriptive terms too, you know. Scientists are human and are conveying their human feelings and emotions. I fail to see any problem here.
While it may be circular to say that belief in God is proved by God (e.g. “The Bible is all true, God told me in the Bible that he was right”), so too is it circular to say that the absolute truth of the scientific method proves itself true.
Except that no-one claims that science is true because of  it's own existence. We can safely say that we can rely on science because of it's results, not because of it's existence. By doing science we end up with answers and results. These outcomes can be further tested to see if they are accurate. We can even take these results and make predictions of what should happen. If doing more science shows that what we say should happen does, it strengthens the case for the the science. Science is not simply deemed to be true because it is, but because it works!
Now, the easy response to White’s argument is to say, “Well, of course we know the things science tells us are true; we don’t question that the earth rotates around the sun, or that we need oxygen to breathe, etc.” White counters this when he points out, “But this ‘of course’ is the marker of ideology, and the ideologist resists examining his own assumptions because to do so would be to make vulnerable his claims to authority.”
But scientists and atheists are open to counter claims.  So there goes that claim... Also, 'of course' is not the marker of ideology as White claims. Rather it is a marker of how sure a person is about something. I can be sure of something and answer 'of course'. But even though I am sure, if you show me evidence that I am mistaken, my mind can be changed.
When thinkers like Plantinga refute the New Atheists, the argument ultimately becomes that all world views, religious or otherwise, rely on unproveable faith claims.
Except that science relies on facts and evidence, so one that relies on science need not rely on faith at all.
White himself expresses skepticism at scientism’s ability to provide a coherent picture of the world that goes beyond mere description of facts.
He does know that discovering and understanding the facts is exactly what science is trying to do, right? It strives to uncover the facts and put them to use. What exactly does White think science is doing that is over reaching?
In particular, he calls for a return to the Romantic spirit. “It was Romanticism,” he writes, “that first challenged the emerging dominance of the scientific and rationalist worldview
Because challenging a rational worldview is somehow a good thing? Romanticism may feel good, but it's not always rational, and certainly isn't always accurate. I fail to see how irrational is supposed to be superior to rational. That's not to say there's no room for the arts or such in a rational world of course.
“But nowhere does he explain why ‘I am my connectome’ should make anyone feel better about themselves than ‘I am my genome.’”
Um... Science is concerned with what is true, not what makes you feel good. Truth doesn't have to align with what people like or want.
Science is beautiful when the confirmation of its theories disconfirms the dominant beliefs of the culture it is working within, or simply disconfirms the intuitions of the human brain itself.” This is paralleled by artistic invention: “Most art innovations are, at first, accused of being impious, or treasonous, or ugly, or decadent, depending upon the ideology.”
But this is exactly what science is open to every single day. So where is the problem?
Scientism and New Atheism reject this idea in favor of absolutist, accidentally metaphysical claims like Sagan’s “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”
No, no, no, no no! We are the same kind of scientists that are open to being proved wrong. Sagan was open to changing his mind. He made that statement based on what he knew at the time. To claim he was stating it as a forever unyielding stance is dishonest. What if I am told I am eating an organic pear, and say "This pear is organic"? Am I being stringent? No. Because what if I then see the sticker on the pear and it says it isn't organic? Then I'd correct what I said and say "Oops, it wasn't organic, but it was still good." To pretend years after Sagan's death that he would have refused to admit the pear wasn't organic is quite disgusting to me and makes me question the author's motives.


-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Jesus?

Do you need to believe in Jesus, or God, or both?
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Why do we need Jesus? Isn’t it enough to believe in God? I don’t see where Jesus fits into the picture. — S.R.
In my opinion, you don't need to believe in either. But for Christians, Christ is a paramount part of the equation. God without Jesus is well... Judaism.
DEAR S.R.: Simply stated, we need Jesus because he is God’s solution to the human race’s greatest problem: our sin.
Wow... God is one horrible problem-solver. He's all-powerful and could solve this supposed problem any way he wanted and he thought that was the best solution? How about just forgiving the genuinely repentant?
Let me explain this by asking you a question: What do you think it is that separates us from God? Is it a lack of knowledge...
Nope. It's actually a gaining of knowledge that causes many to leave the faith, not a lack of it.
...or conflicting ideas about God...
That causes the continuing splintering of denominations of Christianity more than anything else.
... or perhaps a feeling that he doesn’t care?
For a God that allows what he does and does nothing about it, it sure seems like he doesn't give a toss. But this doesn't tell people there isn't a God, just that if there is, he's not a loving deity.
No, the real issue is far deeper than these. Only one thing separates us from God, and that is our sin.
So the thing that God created for no good reason and could easily just forgive if he wanted is far deeper? Sorry, but 'sin' is actually pretty trivial when you consider that Christianity will just ignore any 'sin' if you believe in Jesus. If sin can just be ignored for an arbitrary reason like that, it really doesn't seem to hold the terrible power Billy is saying it does.
God is holy and pure, and even one sin, just one, would be enough to banish us from his presence.
Which is a character trait that anyone would claim makes that person quite a dick if it was being attached to a regular person. And again, you can murder a bus load of kids and God will just look the other way if you are tight with his son.
How then can we be cleansed of our sins? We can’t do it on our own. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never be good enough to come into God’s presence. And that’s why we need Christ.
Only if your religion is about gaining followers by way of blackmail. If positive change was the goal, the test would be genuinely feeling bad about what you had done, not being a blind follower.
He is the only person who ever lived who never sinned, because he was God in human flesh.
The problem with this claim is that if we use the Bible as our guidebook as to who Jesus was and what is and isn't sin, Jesus did in fact sin. And plenty as I have written about previously.
And he came into the world for one reason: to take upon himself all our sins, and become the final and complete sacrifice for sin.
And only played dead for three days instead of staying in Hell for eternity thus showing that he did not pay the price for the sins of all.
My prayer is that you will see yourself the way God sees you, as a sinner in desperate need of his forgiveness.
He hopes you see yourself as a horrible, broken, hopeless person? That's quite the pep-talk Billy...


-Brain Hulk

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Monday, November 17, 2014

How much prayer

If you are a believer, how often should you pray?
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: What does it mean to follow Jesus? My life is so busy that I can’t imagine taking a couple of hours every day to pray, like I guess saintly people are supposed to do. — T.M.
What does it mean to follow Jesus though? The answer my surprise you. As for prayer... Most believers don't pray as much at TM seems to think.
DEAR T.M.: Some men and women may be called by God to do exactly what you say; over the years, I’ve been humbled to meet some of them. When I get to heaven, I’m sure I’ll discover just how important they were in God’s work.
Important? Maybe if they are praying for hours every day it's because they have a very guilty conscious or a hell of a lot to  repent for. After all, Christians do make up the vast majority in US prisons.
But most of us aren’t called to a ministry of prayer like this (although the Bible reminds us to pray in every situation). What, then, does it mean to follow Jesus? First, it means to be committed to him as our savior and Lord. This means we want him to be the master of our lives instead of trying to run them ourselves. Have you turned over the control of your life to him?
So following Jesus means willingly becoming his slave?
Following Christ also means we seek to obey him every day. He knows what is best for us and has told us how he wants us to live in his word, the Bible. Is it part of your life every day and are you allowing its truth to shape your mind and heart?
Follow Jesus through the Bible? Okay so hate your family (Luke 14:26) and cause division in families (Luke 12:51-53) is one way of following Jesus for starters... 
Finally, following Christ means seeing others through his eyes. Christ loved the world so much that he was willing to give his life for our salvation.
And tried to talk his dad (God) out of having to go through with it (Matthew 26:37-44)... An unwilling, needless sacrifice isn't exactly impressive.
The Bible says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Nope, nothing says love like following God's example of being a genocidal monster...


-Brain Hulk

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Looking back: Comics

When I was younger, I was a huge comic book fan. In fact, if I'm honest I'm still quite a fan. Especially with all these Marvel titles becoming fantastic movies. That said, there was a period between early 1997 and late 2013 that I ceased reading comics. It was a reintroduction of an old favorite that got me back into them temporarily. But July saw this character get his own ongoing series again which has me once more heading to my local comic shop once a month to pick up the new book.

The staple of my youth was the Amazing Spider-Man. As the nerdy kid that got picked on, it was natural that the story of a nerdy kid that gets picked on gaining extraordinary powers and becoming an admired hero would appeal to me. These stories not only provided entertainment, but also an escape and hope that the quiet nerdy kid can win in the end. Looking back, I think it also helped to feed my love of art in some (at least small) way. Through my years of reading various Spider-Man titles, the art of Mark Bagley was always my favorite. When I would draw Spider-Man, it was always Bagley's art that I would try to replicate.

But it's religion that I usually talk about here... In comics, anything goes, but the Marvel 616 universe largely mirrors our Earth. The popular religions of real life are what you'll find there. In fact, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is himself, a Christian. It was never central to his character, but he was a believer none-the-less. At the time I was a believer and barely noticed. Today I am an atheist, and the character's beliefs still don't bother me. He's still a character I am a fan of.

Interestingly, comics and theology collided with the creation of a title published by Dark Horse Comics called S.H.O.O.T First. A title in which the titular acronym stands for Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce. The premise is that there are creatures from another dimension entering our plane under the guise of angels or demons. They are out to destroy humanity and only the group of nonbelievers that make up S.H.O.O.T. stand in defense of humanity from these creatures disguised as angels. You would think this would be a series that a non-believer like myself would jump right into. But upon reading the sample pages, it didn't really click for me. Maybe I will give it a try some day if I find myself with more disposable income, but for the time being I will skip it. Though, the prospect of introducing more atheist heroes does appeal to me.

But what comic is it that has brought me back into the fold, and once more begin adding to my comic book collection? I still remember the day I discovered the character... It was 1992 and my mother had taken my brother and I to our local Highs convenience store. I looked at the magazine rack like I always did to see if any of the always changing comics selection looked good. There it was, Spider-Man 2099 #5. (I still have this issue and my first Spider-Man in my collection) At first all I saw was a Spider-Man with a different costume. "When did this happen?", I thought. But when I read it, I found that this was not the same Spider-Man, but one from the future.

Set in the year 2099, it is Miguel O'Hara that is Spider-Man. A brilliant geneticist that gained powers similar to the original Spider-Man (plus a few new ones) through corporate sabotage rather than a radioactive spider bite. Miguel is not the nerdy kid, but a loner with different troubles, and sees the mega corporation that he works for as a source of corruption and evil. He feels that a corporation with such bountiful resources should be used for the benefit of humanity rather than it's detriment
(eventually he takes control and does just that).

When Miguel was reintroduced in Superior Spider-Man I was inspired to complete my collection of all 46 issues of the original series. Upon re-reading them all I noticed a theological detail that I had missed in those decades past.

In the Earth of 2099 Christianity is still a major religion, but so is the worship of Thor. Thorites are taken just as seriously as any other religion. And the return of Thor is foretold much like Christians today like to talk of the return of Jesus. In fact, Spider-Man 2099 is seen to the Thorites as one of the prophesied signs of the return of Thor. Looking back, I find that to be a neat little detail that was built into the world of 2099. At the time of this writing, Miguel is stuck in 2014 in the new series. the writing has been great, just as before. And when he eventually makes his way back to 2099, I will anxiously anticipate what other details are revealed about this fictional, but intriguing world of 2099.


-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blame the wife...

Sometimes a marriage may not be going well. And sometimes the wife makes the poor decision of asking Billy Graham for advice...
Q:My husband says he loves me, but all he's really interested in is his job. He always brings work home and often spends weekends working, and no matter how much I get after him, things never change. Is it time for me to move on? -- Mrs. K.G.
Does he have to work from home? Are finances stressed to the point where he feels that he doesn't have any other option? Or is he simply needlessly fixated on his job and is ignoring KG's pleas? The context makes all the difference in the world in a situation like this.
Pro tip: This is true for more than just cheating.
A: I sincerely hope that in spite of the problems you face you won't give in to the temptation to end your marriage. Instead, I hope you'll do everything you possibly can to rekindle the love you once had, and even strengthen it -- with God's help.
And what makes him think that she hasn't already been doing everything she can? To me, writing
Billy about a question like this stinks of desperation. So I find the assumption that she's not already trying to save her marriage quite odd.
And I believe this is possible, although to be honest, it may not be easy. Because your husband is so absorbed in his work, much of the burden to change your relationship may be on your shoulders, at least at first. But don't be discouraged; it will be worth it. Nor do you need to feel you are alone, because God loves you and wants to help you. And He will, as you turn to Christ and seek His wisdom and help.
Well Christ has been doing a bang up job helping her out so far... Also, if the relationship is to be saved it's going to have the be a unified task, and not just KG. It is also important to figure out why he brings home so much work. Is the job that much work, or is he spending his days not working as much as he should due to a workplace affair or other issue and is working after-hours so it appears he is getting all his work done as what's expected of him?
First, make it your goal to be the best wife you can possibly be. Let your husband know you love him, and back up your words with your actions. An unhappy, tension-filled home will drive almost any spouse away. Instead, make a determined effort to avoid complaining or faultfinding, and express appreciation whenever you can. The Bible says, "Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife" (Proverbs 21:19).
Sorry, but this sounds a lot like Billy blaming KG for the state of their marriage. "Oh your husband isn't paying you enough attention? Maybe if you where a better wife..."  It's as if Billy has just assumed that KG is ultimately at fault. Actually, it reminds me of when Pat Robertson got a question about a husband having an affair and his reply was essentially "He's a man, what do you expect. Be a better wife so he won't stray again and deal with it." I would say these attitudes are shocking, but then again, when you look at Biblical attitudes toward women they actually fit right in...


-Brain Hulk

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