Friday, May 07, 2010

Anthony Flew: memorable quote from the ex-atheist

From the ex-atheist who died at 87:
The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over.
Hope to see you at the banquet table, Anthony.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For true scientists - a great site

For those who truly have inquiring minds, here is a great site that asks the tough questions of the data that is constantly arriving. I don't know how they do it, but they examine all the recent findings across all fields of science in the light of theophobic and theophilic theories.

One of the most entertaining threads is of the constant astronomical discoveries that confound theophobic theories of universe formation and instead suggest very strongly that the universe is very young. Other threads show off the amazing creativity and intelligence of our Creator by recounting recent discoveries and especially how we are trying to imitate his creation to better our lives.

The site is Creation Safaris. Ignore its lack of aesthetics and dive into the content. It is richly rewarding.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Created God? A Reply to Anonymous (Part 1)

Anonymous was kind enough to provide his thoughts on my thoughts on the subject. Before answering, here are his comments in their entirety. (I do not mean any disrespect by the small font, as I will be answering each point at normal size; doing this just to save space for now.):
As you have written such a one-sided aggressive article, I provide comment the same...

Being of a scientific nature, and atheist belief myself, your assertions on 'our' beliefs are wrong - "where no such mechanism is observable or has been observed" the current scientific theory, science is ever evolving (no pun intended) and, by nature, should readily change "it's" views, should a more plausible theory be introduced.

"Atheism belief", to me, is born out of a need to witness proof, instead of just putting ones faith in something. And on a personal note, if any of theism's gods wanted to make me think otherwise, then they would provide evidence of their existence through whatever means that particular person / people, would be more than likely to believe (just as people who believe seem to have extrapolated, from somewhere, themselves), which leads to the obviously logical
Personally, (on a non-scientific basis) I cannot imagine a being that is so powerful, that it created the diversity of the university as we know it, but yet expects us to spend some of our time worshiping them. Surely a being such as this would prefer to see us spend all this time helping our fellow human beings, rather than thanking them for their gift of life (This point, to me, is especially hammered home, seeing as their has been little scientific evidence to prove their existence - Maybe they are making a point?)

Your reasoning that because we don't know everything (or more precisely science hasn't postulated solid theories to many questions) is, how do you put it - Absurd. A lack of knowing someone should not lead them to creating conclusions, without substantial evidence - Think about it, would you convict someone of murder with only circumstantial evidence?

The rational being, my fellow human being, "must accept" that we do not know all the answers, yet... And therefore one should not be proposing that one sides points are any less valid than the other.

I could go one, and on, but as your minds seems undoubtedly decided, and the postulations in your blog, I feel it worthless trying to open your mind to the consideration of other standpoints. conclusion that A) The god(s) do not care if we believe / worship them, or don't want "us" to, B) They don't care if a large portion of their children (Seeing as people who believe have many different faiths to choose from) believe in them, or C) They don't actually exist.
I'm not sure if it's "aggressive", but as to one-sided, well, I am trying to prove a point. You'll note that essays on the wonders of Darwinism or atheism are not famed for being two-sided. But any argument should take into account possible objections or replies, and I think I did so. And I didn't see Anonymous arguing my points.
Being of a scientific nature, and atheist belief myself, your assertions on 'our' beliefs are wrong - "where no such mechanism is observable or has been observed" the current scientific theory, science is ever evolving (no pun intended) and, by nature, should readily change "it's" views, should a more plausible theory be introduced.
There is a word for believing in something which you haven't yet observed. That word is "faith". Everyone exercises it to some degree, since we do not know everything we can know about most things. You are saying you have faith in science to eventually answer the big question of where everything came from.

But how scientific is that belief? Is that belief based on science or reason? I would argue "No".

First, let us remember that scientific inquiry is closed to us at the singularity of the Big Bang; all physical laws break down. So science will never be able to answer that question. Brute fact. Although if you read and buy into Randy Alcorn's Heaven, there is a possibility that we may one day understand, since science - like all other worthwhile human activities - will probably continue in heaven. But that will be too late for the purposes of this argument. You are betting your eternal soul on this impossibility.

Even if we come up with a plausible theory of creating matter from nothing, that still doesn't answer the question of what happened to cause the Big Bang.

Remember that time as we know it began to exist at the Big Bang. Therefore the cause of the Big Bang was outside of time, or, in theological parlance, timeless. It is interesting to note that, unique in ancient history, only the Biblical account espouses this concept of time as finite - Buddhism, Hinduism, the Greeks, and the Romans all believed in unending cycles or of time stretching into eternity past.

Today, history is being rewritten to cast this discovery of the Big Bang as a triumph for atheism. But nothing could be further from the truth. At the time of its discovery, atheists were reeling in shock and disgust at the notion and implications of a Beginning. Arthur Eddington called it "repugnant"; even Einstein, formerly an atheist, struggled with the idea (leading to his infamous blunder, the "Cosmological Constant").

Finally, though, Eddington had to admit, "the beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look at it as frankly supernatural."

Why did these atheists so strongly oppose the Big Bang? Well, it's obvious. The next question readily pops to mind: what caused the Big Bang? Logically, it must have been something extremely powerful, acting outside of time. That we don't know all there is to know about this Cause does not negate this conclusion (see below). But, as Paul Davies argues, since the design of the universe is so precise, we can infer that a great Mind was at work to create the universe; and, so, the Cause is a Person. Other conclusions follow.

To your next point: It should be acknowledged that your position of readily changing your view (only) once a more plausible theory is introduced is not scientific; it is a recent invention to stave off open thought, especially concerning origins.

For example, anyone can see that the bacterial flagellum or our vision system was designed, and that Darwinism has utterly failed to explain the step-by-step origins of either in anything even remotely approaching rigorous, scientific fashion. This can also be seen on a gross scale, of any biological organism when taking into account its structure and behavior. (Perhaps more on this later.) Any rational person would thus discard Darwinism as a possible answer to these. How do Darwinists cling to their faith? By requiring not only that their theory be shown useless, but that a complete alternative theory be offered in its place. Let us be clear: This is not a scientific requirement. It is not even a rational requirement!

It's just plain silly. If someone shows you that 1 + 1 is not, as you claim, 3, you should not demand that that person write a successful version of the Principia Mathematica before you discard your previous notion. It should be enough to know that your belief is wrong to spur you on to find alternatives.

Very few people almost understand quantum physics. Yet, according to this same standard, it would be Darwinists (and atheists) who would be insisting that it cannot be accepted because, although the evidence backs it up, we don't fully understand it. This is analogous to rejecting theism because, although logic tells us that there must be a God, theists "cannot fully explain God."

This is like saying your TV "just came to be" because you don't know the people who allegedly made it and, even if you did, you cannot fully explain their origins. It's just silly. You can reasonably make certain inferences from the data you have and from experience of how the world works. In this way we deduce that the TV was made by persons unknown, but persons nonetheless.

Lastly, science is based on faith. In more than one sense.

First, science is based on the belief that we are actually experiencing the outside world. As Kant shows, and as explained by Dinesh D'Souza in What's So Great About Christianity, this is absolutely unprovable. Read it and weep. To take it a step further, we cannot even logically prove we know anything, since all knowledge is based, ultimately, on sense experience.

Second, modern science came from the Church which, for more than a hundred years was the prime mover and funder of science. You have heard it said it was from the Greeks. Not historically true; they may have kicked it off, but their worldview stifled it. Can't get far if you believe thrown rocks tend towards the ground because, well, it's "in their nature." It was the Church which, believing in a God of order and reason who sustains the universe and its laws, who created matter originally "very good" (and, so, unlike the pagans, didn't consider matter "dirty"), wanting to "think God's thoughts after him" as reflected in his creation, sustained modern science as an organized enterprise.

Oh, but what about Galileo? You're in for a lot of surprises there. Read D'Souza. Or read this article or this one. But compare your stated position to Cardinal Bellarmine's:
I say that, if there were a real proof that the Sun is in the centre of the universe, that the Earth is in the third sphere, and that the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true.
The irony is, contrary to popular mythology, these guys understood how to do science. They were in fact more scientific than Galileo, whose "best" proof at the time - the tides - was completely wrong. They said sure, go ahead with Copernicianism as a theory until you have proof. But he wouldn't listen, instead ridiculing the pope publicly, and reaping the whirlwind.

The other irony is that the Church was defending what it believed to be a scientific view, which was actually a mistaken, pagan view that seemed to make sense. Kind of similar to the Catholic Church giving ground to Darwinism - except, of course, that geocentrism had much more "evidence" going for it.

Anyway, that's it for this post. If you can't wait for more, I strongly recommend reading ex-atheist Anthony Flew's There Is a God. You could do the ad hominem attack and claim he didn't write it, etc. - or you could take his word for it and consider the arguments on their merits. Perhaps you are scientific enough to do the latter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not the same God

You have heard it said that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God.

Not really.

There are non-trivial differences between the Judeo-Christian and the Muslim God.

(At this time I can only direct you here to explore this further.)

Considering some objections to "Calvinism"

This is a reply to the comments from Anonymous regarding what is normally labeled as "Calvinism":
you should read ben worthington's book, problem with evangelical theology. The original recipients of the new testament did not read it the same way as you. Much of the new testament can be unlocked by considering the people and the culture to whom it was written. If god has predestined people for salvation in the manner Calvin suggests, then why did Jesus die to cover the sins of the whole world and not just those that are predestined. It seems to me that Jesus covered the sins of the whole world so that the "who so ever's" of the world could receive grace. One more point, Paul was often dealing with Jewish Christians who still believed that Israel was "god's people". Paul felt with that by revealing that god has offered salvation to all people and anyone can become part of god's people.
There are several points here. First, Ben Worthington. If I've found the correct blog, he seems a pretty smart guy - as are many of my friends who are "Arminian", i.e. "Faith before Regeneration" (FbR). But this is not a battle of IQs; it's about how we see God. Our salvation is not affected, but, like the church who doesn't accept the Revelation of St. John as scripture, our view of God can be impoverished or enriched.

"The original recipients of the new testament did not read it the same way as you. Much of the new testament can be unlocked by considering the people and the culture to whom it was written." True, but what does this considering actually tell us? Let's take a look.

In Romans, Paul was writing to a predominantly Gentile church, and had to explain the Jewish point of view. He did this by expounding Jewish Scripture.

What did the Jewish scriptures have to say about this subject? The most obvious passages regarding predestination that the Jews had to struggle with are all mentioned in Romans 9. The first is about Esau and Jacob (Rom. 9:11-16):
before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
"... before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand" tells us that God's election does not depend on our actions, or, by implication, our choices (which lead to our actions). Although in our temporal experience God interacts in response to our choices and actions, His purposes and election were already decided from eternity without any reference whatsoever to those choices and actions.

"Anything good or bad." That includes our choice to receive salvation.

That's a hard pill to swallow. But that's the clear meaning of Scripture.

Our natural reaction is anticipated - "this seems unfair!" But it is also answered - to complain about this is really to accuse God of being unjust. So we can choose: we can insist that our judgment is superior to that of Scripture, and even of God, or we can trust in God's goodness and justice that somehow his election is perfectly just and loving.

Not convinced? Let's continue: "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." God's election does not depend on our desire - even our desire to be saved, or to accept Christ - or our effort, including our efforts to attain righteousness or salvation, or our efforts to humble ourselves in order to receive his grace. Not much wriggle room there.

Note, though, that God's purpose came to pass in concert with human choices, freely made - Esau's choices, Jacob's choices. This is a great mystery.

But is this really the Jewish understanding of election? Well, Paul gives us the gold standard, the mother of all texts on the topic:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
The Jews certainly had to come to terms with this text, not just a throwaway phrase but one that was repeated over and over: God "hardened Pharaoh's heart."

What does this mean? Did God override Pharaoh's desire to be good? No, that would be out of character both for God and for Pharaoh. Exodus uses three phrases to describe the same thing - Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Since no one would suggest that a just God would force someone to choose evil, this seems to be a way of saying that everything was completely under God's control: Pharaoh's wicked choice was allowed by God, that is, although Pharaoh determined to do evil, God allowed it for His own purposes. God allowed Pharaoh to continue to harden his own heart.

But it's interesting that the third phrase was used at all.

Today, we see the same thing happening when people reject God. They do so of their own free will, and often against all reason and evidence. God does not need to encourage them; they choose to subject their reason to their desire for self-determination.

This suggests an interesting picture: our hearts would continue to harden into some final state, where the good gift of reason is trampled underfoot by rebel will, a state which we should understand as Hell, unless God intervenes to stop the hardening.

(Sorry, I just saw this today in Draft state. I don't remember what I would have written had I continued. But I hope this is helpful, or at least worthy of consideration.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kyrie Eleison v2.0

My attempt to repurpose this great song by Mister Mister for church use. I know the original is a spiritual song already, but here its content is made more explicit. Sorry, it's not as poetic as the original!

The wind blows hard against this mountainside
Across the sea into my soul
He reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

Within my heart, where once was wilderness
Your Spirit burns, a gemlike flame
Somewhere between your grace and holiness
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie Eleison down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison through the darkness of the night
Kyrie Eleison where you lead me I will follow
Kyrie Eleison on a highway in the light

As now my soul in your embrace unfolds
Your faithful mercies do I see
And as I journey on the narrow road
You point me to what I could be