XFiles Friday: Finding God (right where you planted Him)

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 3)

Last week we saw how Geisler and Turek made a Big Goof when it comes to the Big Bang: they forgot that if time began at the Big Bang, then there was no time before the Big Bang for any “First Cause” to happen. As they themselves argued (in relation to God), the Law of Causality does not apply to things that are eternal, and since the physical universe has existed for all of time (just as God allegedly has), the universe is also uncaused and eternal–there has never been a time when material reality did not exist.

That pretty much disposes of Chapter 3’s main argument, but I wanted to look for a moment at how they apply the “First Cause” argument because it gives us a good example of how Christian apologetics treats “evidence” as something to be used to reach a predetermined goal, rather than as a source of objective information. Here is Geisler and Turek’s summary.

From the evidence alone, we know that the first cause must be:

  • self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the First Cause must be outside of time, space and matter). In other words, he is without limits, or infinite;
  • unimaginably powerful, to create the entire universe out of nothing;
  • supremely intelligent, to design the universe with such incredible precision (we’ll see more of this in the next chapter);
  • personal, in order to choose to convert a state of nothingness into the space-time-material universe (an impersonal force has no ability to make choices).

These characteristics of the First Cause are exactly the characteristics theists ascribe to God.

Yeah, go figure, eh?

Again, these characteristics are not based on someone’s religion or subjective experience. They are drawn from the scientific evidence we have just reviewed, and they help us to see a critically important section of the box top to this puzzle we call life.


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The Trinity Problem

In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea declared that God was a Trinity, three separate and distinct Persons who nevertheless were one God. The history of this declaration, both before and after the Council, makes for some interesting reading. For example, Saint Athanasius is remembered for being the leader of the fight against the heretic Arius and for being the chief architect of the doctrine of the Trinity. These two accomplishments were the main reason Athanasius was later canonized, and you’d think they’d have been enough to make him forever admired in the Church.

But he wasn’t. Saint Eusebius, for one, used his political influence to get Saint Athanasius exiled twice, the latter occasion resulting in Athanasius’s death. Despite Saint Athanasius’s great success at Nicea, Saint Eusebius was deeply suspicious of Athanasius’s theology, and wanted him out of the picture. Trinitarianism was not the answer the church was really looking for, and council after council found itself picking up the issue of God’s nature, and Christ’s nature, and trying to resolve the issues raised by the previous “solutions.”

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The real reason(s) for the season

Following in Dinesh D’Souza’s footsteps, Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer informs us that there are (apparently) precisely four reasons why anyone would celebrate Christmas: parties, booze, presents, and Jesus.

If religion, and Christianity in particular, is responsible for the bulk of this world’s woes as some claim, then why would they commemorate the birth of its founder? I guess it’s the parties, the booze and the presents.

I think Pastor Scott is either forgetting a few things, or else he is reluctant to admit that non-Christians might have reasons for participating in the festivities too. Reasons like family, tradition, and celebrating the human spirit of peace, charity, and togetherness. Perhaps he’s forgetting that non-Christians have been celebrating the mid-winter season for a lot longer than the Christians have been parking their holy day there in hopes of appropriating the credit for the celebration. Or maybe he just wants a chance to renew the traditional Christian insinuation that all non-Christians are selfish drunkards reveling in debauchery.

Well Pastor Scott, let me just wish you, in the best traditions that custom has associated with the season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year anyway.

Winter break

I’m taking a few days off for the holidays, so enjoy the break and see you all next week sometime. And remember,

Axial tilt: it’s the REASON for the SEASONs.


XFiles Friday: Time for the Cosmological Argument?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 3)

We’ve made it to Chapter 3, and it only took 19 weeks. My, how time flies! Having addressed the philosophical question of whether truth exists and is knowable (it does and it is), Geisler and Turek are ready to dig into some serious apologetics. They start off with the Cosmological Argument.


…[T]he Cosmological Argument is the argument from the beginning of the universe. If the universe had a beginning, then the universe had a cause. In logical form, the argument goes like this:

1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause.

2. The universe had a beginning.

3. Therefore the universe had a cause.

The remainder of the chapter consists of citing the evidence that suggests the universe had a beginning, and using that as a basis from which to argue that the cause of the universe must be something very much like God. Along the way, we’re treated to a series of quotes-out-of-context that make it sound like atheists are running around wringing their hands because they know the evidence “contradicts” their beliefs, plus a few anecdotes about theists feeling like they got the best of the exchange in their debates with atheists. But they overlook a very fundamental and important flaw in their reasoning.

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Another “miracle”?

From trunews.com comes the story of Jennifer Wood, a 30-year-old resident of Cleveland, TN, who claims to have been miraculously healed of an incurable disease called porphyria EPP. Rev. Jack Smith is pastor of the North Cleveland Church of God where the healing allegedly took place last September.

Wood said she is living proof for anyone who does not believe God does miracles today. For those who do not believe God still works miracles, Smith had encouragement to offer.“First of all, read the Bible. It’s full of miracles from front to back, and God is a God of miracles; in fact, everything that God does is a miracle. People say, ‘Well I wish God could do a miracle for me,’ well He’s done miracles for everybody. Just saving us from sin and eternal damnation is a miracle, probably the greatest miracle,” said Smith.

If Wood’s story checks out, she is clearly eligible for James Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which would let her drop a nice fat tithe into the offering plate at the North Cleveland COG if she can actually document her claims. There are some aspects of her story, however, which might suggest that she won’t be cashing that million-dollar prize check any time soon.

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Is Original Sin the answer?

Since we’re on the topic of evil in human behavior, let’s take a look at the Christian doctrine of Original Sin and/or the so-called “sin nature.” Some Christians make a distinction between Original Sin and the “sin nature,” but the two ideas have enough in common that we can treat them as being basically the same idea, which is that Adam’s sin caused all mankind to become sinful. Or, as Mr. Horvath puts it,

the Christian religion says that people are by nature sinful and fallen. So it isn’t any surprise to Christians- or it shouldn’t be- when humans do bad things to other humans. We shouldn’t even be surprised when Christians are mean to other Christians…

When liberal pacifist Reinhold Neibuhr was confronted with the realities that emerged after WW2, he had a change of heart and mind and realized that Original Sin was real. GK Chesterton wrote that Original Sin was the only Christian doctrine that can actually be empirically demonstrated.

But does the doctrine of Original Sin really explain evil behavior? Or is it merely a superstition that does nothing more than attribute evil to an indetectable and magical “cause”?

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Horvath responds

Ah, it seems Mr. Horvath has taken an interest in this discussion after all.

Herr Professor has redeemed himself slightly in my eyes in his latest reply to one of my posts. He follows my blog very closely so no doubt he will discover this response to his so just a word of reminder to you, sir, that I do not use my blog for discussion and debate. Still, I think his post represents a good faith attempt to answer my question so I shall reply.

Ok, point noted: his blog is not for discussion and debate. Shall we proceed?

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CAMWatch: Why atheism is irrelevant

I just posted a reply to Anthony Horvath’s latest post, but there is one sentence in there, on a slightly different topic, that I think deserves a closer look and a post of its own.

[T]hough I don’t for a minute believe that atheism was irrelevant to Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot’s atrocities, the really critical ingredient is that it was forgotten or denied that people will tend to do bad things and so no checks and balances were erected that could have countered some of the abuses that followed.

Mr. Horvath can believe as he chooses, but the fact of the matter is that atheism is irrelevant to the atrocities for the simple reason that theism is irrelevant to atrocities, as can be documented by observing three simple facts. And since theism has no influence on whether or not a person will commit atrocities, the lack of theism (atheism) has nothing to do with it either.

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CAMWatch: Why do people do bad things?

Anthony Horvath has an interesting post over at the Christian Apologetics Ministries blog. It’s particularly interesting in that it raises an issue you don’t ordinarily hear.

Christian religion says that people are by nature sinful and fallen. So it isn’t any surprise to Christians- or it shouldn’t be- when humans do bad things to other humans. We shouldn’t even be surprised when Christians are mean to other Christians…

But what explains that fact?  I have never heard of a genocide by the gorillas.   Have we found concentration camps erected by dogs?  …  No, raw brutality towards one’s own entire species seems to be a problem unique to the human race, with or without religion.

But can we generate an explanation for that fact without religion? …

The response of [Neibuhr and Chesterton] in the face of human nature’s apparent depravity was to identify it with a doctrine that was already known to them within the Christian community.  What is the atheist going to turn to?

So man’s inhumanity to man is supposed to pose a tough problem for atheists, not because it’s so difficult to stop, but because the atheist’s lack of belief in God means he can’t explain why man is sometimes cruel to man. In other words, if God did not exist, we would expect man to behave better.

That’s a refreshing change from the usual argument, isn’t it? Let’s see if we can’t explain human cruelty without recourse to superstitious ideas about God.

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