Jan 23 2011

The Next Great Awakening Part 15: Reasoned response to skeptics

Category: apologetics,Bible,God,philosophy,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 1:52 pm

The previous post in this series is here.

Here is a website that addresses many of the claims of skeptics about Christ and Christianity.  It does so in the context of responding to various claims made by a prominent scholar/skeptic, Bart Ehrman.  The speakers and writers on this site are also prominent scholars who do not respond with polemics or personal attacks, but with calm reasoning and observation.  It has many short, well-produced videos with concise responses to various issues and problems.  Click the links along the top of the page linked above to reveal other videos and links.

Highly recommended.

h/t:  Koinonia

In general, I think too many upwardly mobile Christian universities put too little emphasis on apologetics, and I hope more of them will seek the contributors to the site linked above as guest speakers.

 

The next post in this series is here.


Aug 16 2010

The smartest person in the room who knows nothing?

Category: philosophy,religion,science,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:37 am

There are those folks who like to pretend their superiority by claiming to function only on reason, not having any need for faith.  They delude themselves, of course.  No one functions only on what they know, or can prove in a scientific or rationalist way.  Most people make most of their decisions on faith, whether they allow themselves to admit it or not.  In that, I include enormous, life determining decisions, like what to study, whether to study, whom to marry, what life path to choose, what values to live by, and so on.  Even science cannot be shown BY science (or any rational process) to be the valid path to truth.  At the link there is a discussion about that, and other things.

My point here is a little different, though.

Some people seem to delight in not being sure about anything, because that way they think they aren’t responsible for anything.  It’s rather as if they think ignorance of the law is a defense (including natural law and revealed law).

Neither natural laws nor God are impressed by feigned ignorance, however, even when you have maintained the pretense for so long that you’ve forgotten it’s just a script, so that you can safely play your role as a person who isn’t sure of anything much.  Shoot, I’ll bet some people could pass a polygraph examination, convincing the operator they’re “agnostics,” sort of the ultimate triumph of method acting.

I’m afraid you’ll have to decide.  You can’t sit on the fence forever.   You won’t live that long.


Jul 30 2010

Hate speech in action

Category: church,family,gay marriage,Group-think,left,ministry,missions,Scriptureharmonicminer @ 8:54 am

You tell me who is practicing hate speech here.

Imagine if the roles were reversed…

If the speaker was a gay minister, speaking gently of our responsibility to pray for our unfortunately confused brethren who don’t understand that Jesus was for gay marriage, saying that tactics of intimidation aimed at straight people are wrong, and the speaker was being shouted down by conservative bible-thumpers carrying signs saying things like “Gays hate God” or some such, you’d have seen this all over the evening news.

But the intolerant Left almost always gets a pass.


Apr 24 2010

Misusing Scripture #3

Category: Bible,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 8:46 am

The previous post in this series is here.

In the comment stream of another post, I wrote the following in response to a question, and then I realized it really belonged in the “Misusing Scripture” series, so after minor editing here it is….

Re: the “turn your cheek” comment of Jesus, it is a mistake to try to turn such comments into fully-orbed theories of human interaction and just response to threat.

Every time you see in the New Testament a suggestion about how individuals should respond to individuals with whom they are in conflict in some way, I suggest always rewriting the scripture so that the potential or actual victim is an innocent child. Then review what the responsibilities of adults are, to children. Then consider that in God’s eyes, we ALL are children, and furthermore, children He wants to adopt.

If you run an orphanage, you do not tell weaker children to let stronger children prey upon them. You do not stand by and watch as one beats another, even if you must use force to stop it, perhaps even risking danger to yourself. And if you have a truly difficult case (a child who is in fact a threat to the group, and possibly strong enough to threaten YOU), you may have to use considerable force to stop a situation from getting out of hand. And this is key: you absolutely must protect yourself in the process, because if you don’t, who will protect the rest of the children?

The fundamental flaw in “proof-texting”  for non-violence in the scriptures is that nearly all such scriptures are about individual responses to particular kinds of situations, NOT about corporate responsibilities (i.e., the responsibilities of governments and families to protect those for whom they are responsible), and even those about individual responses are often more metaphoric than anything.

Some will quote Paul: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

OK. But this presumes I have the power to feed an enemy who does not have the power to feed himself. It assumes I have the power to give him a drink, which he will not have without me… else he will not now be thirsty. In other words, it assumes my enemy is the one now in discomfort or disarray, and that he is no particular threat to me at the moment. What other reasonable explanation could there be that I have food and drink to share, and he does not?

Paul is not saying that if someone is threatening your family, you should offer them a happy meal. Nor is he saying that the USA should have shipped food to NAZI Germany instead of invading it. Although, and this is key to the American ethos in such matters, we did go to considerable lengths to rebuild Germany after it was no longer a threat to us, which is exactly the kind of situation Paul must have been referring to in his statement.

Some say, “I’d say loving our enemies means caring for their family after they’ve killed mine.” The problem is that if you are doing that before you STOP your enemy from killing anyone else’s family, out of an excess of misplaced piety, you are showing NO LOVE AT ALL to the future victims of the murderer.

Will you be delivering food to the family of the murderer when they are still hiding him in the basement? And planning his escape into the next county? If so, what will be your responsibility for the future victims of the murderer? And what about justice, even if you are certain the murderer will never kill again? Keep in mind that the visible presence of that justice in society (and in international relations) is one thing restraining OTHER potential murderers. It is not mere “score settling.”

Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” comment is metaphorical about general human interaction, and exactly on par with other comments He made about “soft answers” and the like. Despite the physical metaphor, it is not mostly about physical violence, else, given His propensity for eye-catching metaphor, He might have said, “If someone strikes you over the head with a club and knocks you cold, when you awaken, stand up and give him a better target next time.” Or, “If someone cuts off your right arm with a sword, offer him your left arm, too.”  This last would have been perfectly in character, if He had meant that. And he made metaphors that strong in other places.

The reason Jesus chose the “cheek” metaphor is precisely because a slap of the cheek is not serious, is unlikely to cause significant harm, is mostly merely insulting, and He is suggesting that we be able to tolerate mere insult without over-reaction or escalation of the conflict, insofar as we have control over it.

It is NOT a general comment about not defending yourself (or your family, or your nation) when required, and it certainly is not a general comment encouraging the neglect of others who are in danger (which often includes protecting them), nor is it a statement that allows us to escape the demands of justice, which includes our responsibility to prosecute it when required.

The next post in this series is here.