Friday, October 31, 2014

Ten quick responses to atheist claims?

Christian Today posted an article that is supposed to offer quick responses to ten atheist claims. So let's take a look and see if it actually delivers...

1) You don't believe in Zeus, Thor and all the other gods. I just go one god more than you, and reject the Christian God.
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The problem with this idea is that 'gods' such as Zeus and Thor are not comparable with the biblical understanding of God.

"There is a vast distinction between all of the Ancient near eastern gods and the God of the Bible," said Prof Lennox. "They are products of the primeval mass and energy of the universe. The God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth".
The point that Lennox is missing or ignoring is that the god of the Bible, like all other gods, is an unproven entity that is supported by exactly zero evidence. The other point is that the Christian disbelieves in Zeus, Thor, and all other gods for the very same reason we also disbelieve in the Christian god.

2) Science has explained everything, and it doesn't include God.
Science cannot answer certain kinds of questions, such as 'what is ethical?' and 'what is beautiful?' Even when it comes to questions about the natural world, which science does explore and can sometimes answer, there are different types of explanations for different things.
"God no more competes with science as an explanation of the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation of the motor car," says Prof Lennox.
First of all, no one is saying that science has explained everything. The beautiful thing about science is that it never stops. Lennox feels that there are things that science can't answer, and I would opine that science can delve into the realms that Lennox says that it can't. But even if it couldn't... So what?! Not having a scientific explanation doesn't mean that you can just plug in whatever story you favor.

Another important aspect is that science and religion are very much in conflict if you are going with a literal interpretation of the Bible. There are stories that are very much in contradiction with what science has shown to be the reality.

3) Science is opposed to God.
There are certain conceptions of a 'god' that might be opposed to science, but not the Christian God. There might be certain kinds of 'gods' that are invented to explain things we don't understand, but they're not Christian.
"If we're being offered a choice between science and god... it is not a biblical concept of god," said Prof Lennox. "The biblical God is not a god of the gaps, but a God of the whole show. The bits we do understand [through science] and the bits we don't.
"Among many leading thinkers, their idea of god is thoroughly pagan. If you define god to be a god of the gaps, then you have got to offer a choice between science and god."
Science is actually impartial to religion. It just so happens that God claims just happen to regularly fail scientific scrutiny. Lennox claims there is no conflict, but as I've said, the Bible makes claims that science have shown are false. Also, there is no proof of God, so there is no way he could be remotely scientific since evidence is what science runs on.

4) You can't prove that there is a God.
This kind of statement ignores that there are different kinds of 'proof'.
"Can you prove that there is a God?" asked Prof Lennox. "In the mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There's the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there's the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt".
That's the kind of 'proof' we can present: arguments to bring someone beyond reasonable doubt. For example, rational arguments such as those from philosophers Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, the personal experience of Christians, and the witness of the gospel accounts in the Bible.
Lennox fails to realize that his God fails on both accounts to an impartial party. If he feels that personal experiences are 'proof' of God, than the personal experiences of Hindus, Muslims, Satanists, Scientologists, Pastafarians, or Buddhists prove their respective deities to be real as well. Somehow I doubt Lennox would accept the personal experience of a Muslim.

5) Faith is believing without any evidence.
Christian belief has never been about having no evidence: the gospels were written to provide evidence, as the beginning of Luke's attests. The end of John's gospel says, "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
But believing without evidence is a common notion of 'faith' at present. "This definition is in the dictionary and believed by many," said Prof Lennox. "So, when we talk about faith in Christ, they think that's because there's no evidence. [John's gospel shows that] Christianity is an evidence-based faith."
The Bible is not evidence of anything. It's the claim and no more. If faith was belief with evidence, it would cease to be faith. Hebrews 11:1 also contradicts Lennox's claim when it says...
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
6) Faith is a delusion. I'd no more believe in God than I would in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
These ideas have been made famous by people such as Prof Richard Dawkins. The only thing they are good for is mockery.
"Statements by scientists are not always statements of science," said Prof Lennox. "Stephen Hawking said, "religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark". I said, "atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light".
"Neither of those statements proves anything at all. They're all reversible. What lies behind all these delusion claims is the Freudian idea of wish fulfilment [that we believe what we hope to be true.] This works brilliantly providing there is no god. But if there is a god, then atheism is wish fulfilment."
It sounds as if Lennox is unduly taking 'delusion' as an insult, when it simply means 'a belief that is not true'. Also, the God/Easter Bunny/Flying Spaghetti Monster comparison is a valid one and not a joke as he believes. This is because there is no evidence for any of them existing. In this way, they are very much the same.

7) Christianity claims to be true, but there loads of denominations and they all disagree with each other, so it must be false.

Why does the existence of denominations imply Christianity is false? It might imply that Christians have very different personalities and cultures – or even that Christians aren't good at getting on with each other – but not that Christianity isn't true.
"There are all kinds of different kinds of teams in football, but they all play football," said Prof Lennox.
This smells like a straw-man because I've literally never heard an atheist cite the existence of different denominations as proof that Christianity is false. I've only heard denominations brought up for two reasons.

Two different denominations will claim that they are the only ones who have it right, and they will claim that the other is doing it wrong. They will often go as far as saying that the other is in danger of Hell while they are on the road to Heaven.

The existence of denominations does  alsothrow the Bible into question. The Bible is claimed to be the perfect word of God. If it is perfect, that would mean that it should be perfectly clear and not open to interpretation. Yet all these different interpretations is why we have so many denominations . Thus the Bible can't be fully perfect.

8) The Bible is immoral.

If you want to question the morality of the Bible, what basis does that morality have? There can be a serious contradiction within atheist criticisms. Dawkins wrote: "In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."
If this is true, then why does he question the morality of anything? "Dawkins says faith is evil," said Prof Lennox. "But at the same time he abolishes the categories of good and evil. That doesn't make sense."
Believers just love to pull that quote and use it out of context don't they? That Dawkins quote was from a book on evolution, and is about evolution. What he's saying is that evolution is indifferent. But make no mistake, people aren't. As I've written before, morality easily arises without the need for a deity. Also, no matter which way you want to look at it. I also wrote about the shear evil on display in the Bible. Anyone who claims the Bible to be moral either hasn't read it all the way through, or possesses the ability to rationalize an amazing blood-lust that would make even the most prolific mass-murderers blush.

9) Surely you don't take the Bible literally?
Some atheists (and a few Christians) have a very black and white idea of how to interpret the Bible. You either have to take it 'literally' or chuck it away, they think. That ignores the reality of language and how it reflects truth.
"Jesus said 'I'm the door'," said Prof Lennox. "Is Jesus a door like a door over there? No. He is not a literal door, but he is a real door into a real experience of God. Metaphor stands for reality. The word 'literal' is useless."
Sorry, but 'metaphor' and 'literal' are not remotely interchangeable. I will opine that I feel that literally interpreting the Bible at all time is madness. The problem is if a believer claims that some parts are literal and others are metaphor, how do you tell when what it is saying is literal or not. Why is it assumed that Jesus making the blind see or coming back to life are literal and not metaphorical? Also, there is the bad habit where things will be considered literal until that interpretation has been shown to be false. Suddenly, it is claimed that it was a metaphor all along. Such an action is simply dishonest.

10) What is the evidence for God?
You can debate the existence of God until the cows come home. It can be very interesting, especially when you go into the detail and explore the subject in depth. But for an atheist, they might be missing the point or avoiding the real issue. Prof Lennox advises to ask them the most important question:
"Suppose I could give [evidence for God], would you be prepared right now, to repent and trust Christ?"
And the answer almost every atheist will give you is that yes, give me evidence and I'll believe. Actually, many of us want(ed) to believe, tried to believe, and at one point did believe.

So what we see here is ten examples of a believer missing the point, presenting a straw-man, or just not making sense.


-Brain Hulk

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