And now for something completely different

I’ve been having a hard time picking a new book to go through now that we’ve finished On Guard. I happen to have a copy of Lee Stroebel’s The Case for Faith, but you know it’s just going to be more of the same old same-old. I thought about picking some articles from some of the big name apologetics web sites, but I looked through a few and there’s just not much substance there. It’s mostly just inspirational stuff designed to pep up people who already believe.

I’m in the mood for something different, and I think I’ve found something that fits the bill. We’re going to take a break from trendy modern rationalizations for God and go back to the roots of Christian apologetics. I’m talking about Justin Martyr, the Father of Apologetics, as translated and published by Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). I’ve been doing some reading there, and I’ve got to admit, it’s a lot more interesting than I expected. The language is a bit over-embellished for modern tastes, but his perspectives and assumptions regarding Christianity are fascinating. Evidently, some things have changed a lot since the early days of Christianity. And then again, some haven’t.

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Spoilers and the weakness of the Almighty

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

Normally I hate it when people give away the plot, but today I’m going to make an exception. I’m going to give away the plot behind the “Christian exclusivism” argument that William Lane Craig is making. When Craig says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, he’s not being as humble and pious as he’d like everyone (including himself) to think. He’s not exalting God and abasing man. The whole point of Christian exclusivism (or “particularism,” as he calls it) is to put Christians in the position of having a unique monopoly on what people are supposed to believe and how they must behave. Religious pluralism is anathema to him precisely because it allows people to believe and obey things Christians haven’t approved.

The problem with Christian exclusivism is that, from God’s perspective, there’s no reason for it. If, as the Gospel claims, God were a loving heavenly Father Who earnestly wanted all of His children to be saved, the last thing He would want to do is to tack on some arbitrary and often impossible requirements that severely limit the number of salvations. Craig expends a fair amount of effort trying to defend his exclusivist position against the obvious charge of injustice, but he can’t really explain why God ought to limit salvations in the first place. Shh, don’t tell anyone: the real reason is first and foremost to establish the dominion of Christians like himself.

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XFiles: WL Craig on “Objective Moral Duties”

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 6: “Can We Be Good Without God?”)

Last week, Dr. Craig ended on an exceptionally misanthropic note, declaring that if we take away God, humanity is nothing more than “an apelike creature on a speck of solar dust beset with delusions of moral grandeur.” Our intrinsic moral value—the value we have in and of ourselves, with or without 3rd parties like God—simply does not exist, in Dr. Craig’s view. (Wow.) Having settled that question, he moves on to moral duties.

Traditionally our moral duties were thought to spring from God’s commandments, such as the Ten Commandments. But if there is no God, what basis remains for objective moral duties? On the atheistic view, human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligations to one another.

Already he has “forgotten” what he himself wrote on the preceding page of his book:

Just as a troop of baboons exhibit cooperative and even self-sacrificial behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous in the struggle for survival, so their primate cousins Homo sapiens exhibit similar behavior for the same reason. As a result of sociobiological pressures there has evolved among Homo sapiens a sort of “herd morality,” which functions well in the perpetuation of our species.

He originally conceded this point only because he thought it would be useful to him in dehumanizing mankind so that he could claim we have no “moral grandeur” without God. Now that he wants to talk about duty, however, he forgets all about this fact, even though it applies much more directly to moral behavior (i.e. “duties”) than it does to moral values. There’s a very clear sociobiological basis for the kinds of behavior we perceive as “duties,” and even though Dr. Craig himself alluded to it just one page ago, he now claims that no such thing exists.

Looks like we’re off to a good start, eh?

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Explanation versus superstition

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 3: “Why does anything at all exist?”)

We’ve made it to chapter 3 (finally), and things are going to get just a bit meatier. Dr. Craig starts us off with Leibniz.

G. W. Leibniz, codiscoverer of calculus and a towering intellect of eighteenth-century Europe, wrote: “The first question which should rightly be asked is: Why is there something rather than nothing?

In other words, why does anything exist at all? This, for Leibniz, is the most basic question that anyone can ask. Like me, Leibniz came to the conclusion that the answer is to be found, not in the universe of created things, but in God. God exists necessarily and is the explanation why anything else exists.

Dr. Craig breaks Leibniz’ argument down into a simple, easily-understood syllogism.

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. [Therefore:] The universe has an explanation of its existence.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God.

Dr. Craig assures us that “this is a logically airtight argument,” but I daresay he’s being overly optimistic. There is an obvious fallacy in point 2 (which he is going to try and address later in the chapter). Before we get to that, though, we need to look at the somewhat less obvious fallacy in point 1.

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Here’s a petition I can sign whole-heartedly

Via the Al Franken campaign website, a petition to repeal the dishonestly-named “Defense of Marriage Act.”

It’s time.

There’s no good argument against marriage equality. There’s no good argument in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. And there’s no reason we should wait one more day to repeal it.

He might also hit you up for a campaign contribution, but there’s lots worse things you could do with your money. Here’s the URL again:

Petition to repeal the DOMA


Can Christians Escape the ‘Hate’ Label in Gay Marriage Debate?

Over at The Christian Post, contributor Jeff Shapiro wonders,

Can Christians ever escape being labeled as “hateful” people while standing firmly on the pro-family side of the gay marriage issue?

The answer seems to elude him, but I can spell it out in just a few short words: “Hateful is as hateful does.” If a bunch of secularists got together and passed amendments defining marriage as the union of two non-Christians, would any mealy-mouthed language about “defending secular marriage” succeed in hiding the blatantly anti-Christian sentiment behind such actions? Of course not. Christians can blather all they want about how they’re motivated by “love” for gays, or by “pro-family” sentiments, but even if such motives were sincere, it would not change the fact that their actions are oppressive, and a deliberate violation of human rights.
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Victory for human rights in New York

In a bit of all-too-rare good news, the New York legislature has voted to extend equal protection of human rights to gays too. The governor of New York signed the bill into law late Friday night.

Kudos to Gov. Cuomo and the 33 legislators for having the courage to stand up for human rights in the face of intense bullying and threats from the bigots.