Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1] Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.

Did Aliens Create Life?

Did aliens create life? For some, this question may be bizarre. However, I have recently been approached by more than one person inquiring about the possibility. Much of this inquiry stems from popular shows like Ancient Aliens or even Alien Encounters. Wild-haired personality Giorgio A. Tsoukalos popularized the view that many of the stories in the Bible involved personal encounters not with alien life forms rather than the divine.

im-not-saying-that-it-was-aliens-but-it-was-aliens
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos

It may surprise you to discover that even Richard Dawkins accepts the view of panspermia, that life was planted by alien life forms. In the movie Expelled, Ben Stein asks famed atheist Richard Dawkins the following:

What do you think is the possibility that intelligent design might turn out to be…um…the answer to some of the issues in genetics…”

Dawkins replies, “Well it could come about in the following way: It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means by a very high level of technology and designed a form of life they seeded on this type of planet. Um…now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry of biology you might find a signature of some form of designer. And that designer could be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that form of intelligence must come from an explicable process.”

 Stein remarked, “Wait a minute! Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit!”[1]

stein and dawkins
Dawkins answering Stein on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

 It seems like Dawkins does not have so much an issue with intelligent design as much as he does God. Are aliens the answer for life? Well, to give a complicated answer: no. I submit three reasons for why God’s existence is necessary rather than aliens to account for life.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in being.

We must distinguish between necessary beings and contingent beings. This section may be a bit complicated for one who has not had experience in philosophy; for we deal with an ontological concept. Norman Geisler describes necessary beings as “one who cannot not exist (if it exists at all). But what cannot not exist has no potential for nonexistence. And what exists with no potential not to exist is Pure Existence.”[2] Philosophically complex? Yes. But, we can simplify the concept.

The issue comes down to this: something that absolutely is required to exist, exists. Let me explain the concept by the following illustration. You are reading these words on your device. These words are not random. They have meaning. Therefore, these words are contingent (dependent) upon the existence of an author (i.e. me). In this case, then, the words are contingent and my existence is necessary. The words prove my existence. However, when taken further, my existence is contingent upon the necessary existence of two other people (my parents). Because I exist, one can verifiably know that my parents exist. In this case, I am a contingent being and my parents are necessary beings. Push this far enough back to the first humans, then something has to account for all of life. God’s existence (an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, conscious Mind) is necessitated by the existence of anything that exists.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in creation.

This second point develops from the first. Whereas the first point engages the idea of ontology (the study of being), the second examines the question cosmologically. Even if aliens do exist, the creatures (sentient or not) would be contingent beings like ourselves as they would require an explanation for their existence as they would be finite creatures. Evidence continues to further prove the case that the universe if finite. Thus, anything that was born into this universe without a prior existent endowment and by sheer natural means is a limited creature.[3] If aliens are biological creatures born into this universe, then aliens are not the ultimate creators of life. They could never be. Therefore, aliens could not account for the creation of life and the universe as the finite universe requires an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Mind. Sheer logic dictates as much. Thus, God’s existence is necessitated by creation and not aliens.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in purpose.

The final case for God’s necessity over that of aliens deals in the realm of teleology. The book of Genesis notes that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).[4] The universe seems to have a purpose. Wayne Grudem makes the following observation, “If God created the universe to show his glory, then we would expect that the universe would fulfill the purpose for which he created it.”[5] If aliens created life, then life would have no purpose outside of being the result of a high school science experiment. If aliens created life, then there would be no sense of morality as morality requires the existence of a Supreme Good (i.e. God). Most importantly, if aliens created life, then there would be no hope for final restitution of creation. Life has been given purpose. The fact that humans possess a will, desire, and the ability to tell good from evil provides yet another reason to reject the idea of panspermia (i.e. that aliens planted life).

Conclusion

Even if it could be demonstrated that aliens planted life, the existence of God would still be mandatory. Why? Because someone had to develop the method by which life would grow. Someone would be responsible for the creation and development of alien life. Someone would still be responsible for the creation of the universe and all the laws of physics found within. As I noted before, the existence of anything necessitates the existence of an eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, Mind. We know that being to be the God presented in the Bible. While it may be fun to contemplate the existence of aliens (and who knows, aliens could exist), we should note that the potential existence of such life forms do nothing to eliminate the necessity of God’s existence. God is responsible for the creation of life, not ET.

 

© February 21, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Dawkins, Richard. Interviewed by Ben Stein. “Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview.” YouTube. In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). Accessed February 21, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc.

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Notes

[1] Richard Dawkins, interviewed by Ben Stein, “Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview,” YouTube, from Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed: No Intelligence Allowed (2008), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc.

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 418.

[3] Notice that the statement is worded as such to exclude Christ was existed before he was born (John 1:1).

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 272.

The 5 Minimal Facts Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth

Someone once said that if you have three Baptists, you will have four opinions. The statement alludes to the fact that it is difficult for Protestant Baptists to find common ground (being a Baptist I can say such a thing). Let’s face it; it is difficult to find common ground on anything. The same holds true for scholarship. However when general consensus is held, it generally confers that the evidence is strong for a given thing or event.

Individuals may find it interesting that there exists a general consensus among biblical and historical scholars concerning certain events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. One may find it even more surprising that there is a general consensus among said scholars concerning the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona have presented what they term the “minimal facts approach” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 46). Minimal facts are those things that which “nearly all scholars hold, including skeptical ones” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 46). Therefore the minimal facts data only presents data that are “strongly evidenced…[and] granted by virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 47). There are at least five minimal facts concerning the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The minimal facts are:

12-the-crucified-christ-rubens

Minimal Fact #1:       Jesus died by crucifixion by the order of Pontius Pilate

It is universally held that Jesus was crucified under the order of Pontius Pilate. The only individuals who would ever deny this fact are those who are deluded by the “Jesus Myth” ideology (those that hold that Jesus was a fictional character). No serious scholar would deny the existence of Jesus. During a debate with John Lennox, even skeptic Richard Dawkins conceded that Jesus was a person of history (see the confession at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5EjA-JNiVk). Along with the fact of Jesus’ existence, one must admit that Jesus was crucified under the order of Pontius Pilate.

Crucifixion was a torturous form of execution that was implemented by the Romans to quiet rebels and dissenters. Cicero writes that crucifixion was “that most cruel and disgusting penalty” (Cicero, Against Verres 2.5.64). The fact that Jesus was crucified in this manner is attested by the fact that all four gospel accounts proclaim that Jesus died in this fashion. Matthew writes, “Then [Pilate] released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26). Mark writes, “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Mark 15:15). Luke writes, “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will” (Luke 23:25). John writes, “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’…So he delivered him over to be crucified” (John 19:15-16). In addition, extra-biblical citations from Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosota and others identify Jesus as having been crucified. So much is the evidence for Jesus’ crucifixion that even skeptic John Dominick Crossan wrote, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be” (Crossan 1991, 145). It is for this reason that Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the minimal facts.

 risen Jesus

Minimal Fact #2:       The disciples claimed to have seen the risen Jesus

As surprising as it may sound, Habermas and Licona write, “There is a virtual consensus among scholars who study Jesus’ resurrection that, subsequent to Jesus’ death by crucifixion, his disciples really believed that he appeared to them risen from the dead” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 49). Again, all the gospels present Jesus as risen from the dead. While the authenticity of Mark’s ending after 16:8 is disputed, Mark still presents Jesus as risen and assumes that Jesus would…and in fact did…meet with the disciples after the resurrection. For instance, Mark writes that the messengers of God told the women at the tomb, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7). So even if Mark’s longer ending is not authentic, the first 8 verses of Mark still presents Jesus as risen from the dead and that He would appear to the disciples. Since Mark is writing after the fact, Mark implies that Jesus did in fact meet with the disciples.

Perhaps the most important biblical creed that supports the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. The creed dates back to the time of Christ. The creed states that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Aramaic term for Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). Paul then records that he himself saw the risen Jesus. A multitude of other creeds exist in the New Testament that supports the resurrection of Jesus. Clement of Rome, a first-century Christian who apparently knew the apostles of the Lord wrote,

Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand” (Clement of Rome, “First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” XLII).

Therefore, Clement provides additional evidence for the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. That is why that the apostles’ belief that they had seen the risen Jesus is a minimal fact.

4_paul-conversion

Minimal Fact #3:       Paul converted from an antagonist of Christianity to an apologist for Christianity after having claimed an experience with the risen Jesus

While one may wonder what Paul has to do with the resurrection of Jesus, when one understands the reason behind Paul’s transformation, one will understand its association. Paul was a well-educated Jew. Paul said that he had lived “according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). Paul even said that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Yet, something happened to Paul. Instead of persecuting the church, Paul was an advocate for the church. It all changed due to Paul’s experience with the risen Jesus. Paul’s transformation, says Habermas and Licona, is “well documented, reported by Paul himself, as well as Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth, and Origen. Therefore, we have early, multiple, and firsthand testimony that Paul converted from being a staunch opponent of Christianity to one of its greatest proponents” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 65). The evidence is also found in the establishment of several churches by Paul. For this reason, Paul’s conversion after having seen the risen Jesus is listed as a minimal fact.

 st james

Minimal Fact #4:       James, the brother of Jesus, converted to Christianity after having an experience with the risen Jesus

Like the third minimal fact, the fourth minimal fact concerns the conversion of a skeptic turned believer. James was one of the brothers of Jesus. John records that the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. John writes, “For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). Yet, James became a believer and a strong, influential leader of the early church. The early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 lists James as one who had encountered the risen Jesus. James is listed as an early church leader. For Paul writes of his trip to Jerusalem, “But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). James would believe strongly in the Lord Jesus. James even writes that “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). James’ works would prove that his faith was very much alive as he was eventually martyred. Habermas and Licona report that James’ “martyrdom is attested by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 68). James’ conversion was so strong that it is listed as an indisputable minimal fact.

 Empty-Tomb-Picture-02

Minimal Fact #5:       The Empty Tomb

Surprisingly, the final minimal fact is not as well-accepted as the first four. However, there is strong evidence that Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty by the earliest disciples. While this fact is not universally accepted by scholars, it is strongly affirmed by most scholars. Gary Habermas shows that “roughly 75 percent of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact” (Habermas & Licona 2004, 70). Habermas also reports that “There were apparently reports in Palestine that caused the emperor to issue an exceptionally strong warning against grave robbing, which was punishable by death (Nazareth Decree)” (Habermas 1996, 185). Not only does archaeology imply an empty tomb, the Bible states that there was an empty tomb. Mark writes that the angel said, “He has risen; he is not here…And they went out and fled from the tomb” (Mark 16: 6, 8). John also reports that “Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself” (John 20:6-7). Therefore, the biblical evidence strongly supports an empty tomb.

Justin Martyr refers to the empty tomb when he writes in his response to Trypho,

And though all the men of your nation knew the incidents in the life of Jonah, and though Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead, and to mourn before God as did the Ninevites, in order that your nation and city might not be taken and destroyed, as they have been destroyed; yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilæan deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven” (Justin Martyr, Trypho, CVIII).

Since archaeology, biblical, and non-biblical records support the empty tomb, in addition to the tradition that Constantine’s mother Helena successfully found the tomb which was still venerated by Jerusalem Christians despite Rome’s defilement of the site, provides a strong case for the historicity of the empty tomb, thus making it one of the five minimal facts supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

 

Conclusion

A great deal of consensus exists for these five facts concerning the resurrection of Jesus. This does not necessarily indicate that consensus indicates that something is correct because at one time consensus held that the earth was flat. However, scholarly consensus along with the archaeological evidence, and biblical and non-biblical references that were provided provided presents one with a strong case for the authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. One may be inclined to claim, “Yeah, but there are SOME scholars who deny that Jesus existed.” Well, there are SOME individuals who claim that the Holocaust did not occur. But if one is going to be a seeker for truth, one must accept not only Jesus of Nazareth’s historical existence, but one must also accept the crucifixion, burial, and apparent resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is in my opinion that the resurrection itself is one of the most verifiable historical events of antiquity. If the resurrection is true, then there is great hope that our deaths do not serve as the end of our history, but the exciting beginning to a new level of existence…that is, if one has faith in Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Cicero. Against Verres 2.5.64.

Clement of Rome. “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Volume 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

Crossan, John Dominick. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991.

Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin: College Press, 1996.

_______________, and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004.

 Martyr, Justin. “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Volume 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Is God a Sexist? Evaluating the Importance the Bible Places on Women

CRIPPLED_WOMAN_Jesus_raises_the_woman     Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins 2008, 51). It was as painful for me to write the previous text as it was for you to read it if you are a believer. There are many things that could be addressed in Dawkins’ wordy diatribe. For this article, we shall examine the term “misogynistic.” A misogynist is one who holds a hatred for women. Is this true of the God of the Bible? Does God hate women?

Women are Made Imagio Dei

To answer the question of God’s viewpoint of women, one only needs to examine the creation account. In Genesis, one reads, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Did you notice that males and females were created in the image of God? Some have postulated that only the man bears the image of God. However, think about this for a moment. Biologically, every person is born from a woman. If the woman did not bear the image of God, how could future males? Theoretically, this would create a degradation of the image until nothing would be left. If Adam bore the image of God and Eve did not, then Seth (Cain and Abel out of the picture now) would have born half the image of God. Then Seth’s son would have born a quarter of the image of God…and so on and so forth. Each generation would bear less of the image of God than the previous generation. But, this is logically and theologically absurd. The Scripture shows that both male and female bear the image of God.

Women were Appointed for Specific Tasks in the Old Testament

This article will not deal with the controversial issues surrounding women in pastoral ministry. The intent and purpose of this article is to present God’s view of women as presented in the Bible. With such a motive in mind, let the reader consider the fact that God used multiple women in the pages of the Bible for spectacular tasks.

 Miriam

In Exodus, one may learn of the prophet Miram. “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing” (Exodus 15:20). Miriam led other women in giving praise to God.

Deborah

Deborah was not only a prophet, but a judge. “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands” (Judges 4:4-7). In the next verse the book of Judges records that Barak would not go into battle without Deborah by his side. If God did not trust women, God would not have called such a woman like Deborah.

Other female prophets

Consider the multiple other female prophets in the Bible. 2 Kings tells of the prophet Huldah, “Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter” (2 Kings 22:14). Also consider Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3)…(wow 2 prophets in the same family!!!), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9). Hmm…something tells me that Dawkins didn’t read that far in the Bible.

Mary Magdalene

Let us not forget that the first person that Jesus chose to visit after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene. John writes, “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her” (John 20:16-18). The fact that a woman was the first to see Jesus, and that this was reported by early Christians in a society that did not view women favorably, holds HUGE historical significance as the appearance to a woman would be an unlikely product of fiction.

Jesus’ Treatment of Women Compared to other Religious Leaders

gautam_buddha_in_meditation     Siddhartha Gautama

How does Jesus’ treatment of women compare to other religious leaders? Of Siddhartha Gautama (aka. “The Buddha”), Fincher writes, “At age 29, (Gautama) awoke among his harem and realized that his concubines no longer lured him with their beauty…He left them, made one final trip to look at his wife of 12 years, Yasodhara, and their newborn son, and then abandoned everyone (harem, wife, and son) to find enlightenment” (Fincher 2009, 224).

joseph-smith-photograph     Joseph Smith

What about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism? Fincher writes, “In 1843, Joseph Smith betrayed his wife, Emma, by secretly marrying twelve women, two already married to other men. One wife, Lucy Walker, wrote an autobiographical sketch and revealed how this practice horrified her” (Fincher 2009, 224). This does not even consider the polygamy that Smith endorsed, along with some of the women being well under-aged.

russell1Charles Taze Russell

What about Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Fincher writes, “Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) married Maria Frances Ackley with an agreement that their union was a marriage of celibacy for the sake of partnering in their ministry…In their divorce proceedings, Maria testified to witnessing a sexual relationship between her husband and their foster child, Rose Ball, a teenager at the time who worked as Russell’s correspondence secretary” (Fincher 2009, 224). This “relationship” involved molestation.

jesus-on-shroud     Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus was unique in more than one way. Jesus of Nazareth elevated women to a high status. Jesus never was accused of any illicit behavior. As a matter of fact, those who knew Him best wrote of Jesus, “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) and “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Those kinds of things would not be written of Smith, Russell, and the like. Take, for instance, Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). Fincher writes, “Which religious founder would you trust with your mother, your sister, or your wife” (Fincher 2009, 227)? Josh and Sean McDowell remind us, “(Jesus) affirmed Mary as she sat at his feet as his disciple. He gave great praise to the women who anointed him before his death…” (McDowell and McDowell 2012, 69).

The Importance of Women in the Church

Women were elevated to a new status in Christianity. Paul writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). It seems that this new freedom brought forth some of the more misunderstood teachings in Paul’s writings concerning women. In Christ Jesus, everyone becomes special. It matters not what nationality one claims. It matters not what color of skin one possesses. It matters not what socio-economic status one holds. Tall or short, skinny or plump, black or white, rich or poor, and male or female makes no difference in the kingdom of God. All individuals hold worth in the eyes of God through Christ Jesus. (Note: anyone who has worked in ministry knows that women have and always will be an integral part of ministry. If it were not for the women in church…let’s be honest…nothing would get accomplished.)

Conclusion  

Is God a sexist? If one can still ask that question after reading this article, then one needs to go back and read it over. Every person holds worth in the eyes of God whether that person be male or female. This does not mean that God tolerates sin. The sin problem is what led to the salvation solution. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love in the entire world than the love that God has for each individual. Do you know the love of God? If not, check out our link “How to Know Jesus.”

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Mariner, 2008.

McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. 77 FAQs About God and the Bible: Your Toughest Questions Answered. Eugene: Harvest House, 2012.

Fincher, Jonalyn Grace. “Defending Femininity: Why Jesus is Good News for Women.” In Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblically and Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking about God. Edited by Sean McDowell. Eugene: Harvest House, 2009.

Signs that the New Atheist Movement May be Collapsing

debate-craig-krauss    Dr. William Lane Craig recently completed a tour of Australia. Within this tour, Dr. Craig debated Dr. Lawrence Krauss in a series of three debates. However, there was not much debate on the side of Krauss. Instead, there were relentless attacks upon Craig’s character. In addition to this, Krauss did not initially grant permission for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) to air the debates. What was Krauss’ fear in having the debates aired on live television? Well, it appeared that Krauss did not have an argument to bring. Krauss acted like a juvenille throughout the entire series. Sometimes, he would make silly faces as Craig was giving his talk. Other times Krauss would hit a buzzer during Craig’s talk. Has the atheist debate scheme lowered to this level? This is nothing new. Here of late, it seems like other beacons of atheism have lowered themselves to these childish tactics such as Alex Rosenberg. Richard Dawkins refuses to debate Craig but offers retorts against Craig claiming that Craig is an immoral man. Dawkins posted a nasty retort on Craig’s views of the Old Testament and the Canaanite slaughter, “And if any of my colleagues find themselves browbeaten or inveigled into a debate with this deplorable apologist for genocide, my advice to them would be to stand up, read aloud Craig’s words as quoted above, then walk out and leave him talking not just to an empty chair but, one would hope, to a rapidly emptying hall as well” (Dawkins, The Guardian). But, the series of debates were not on the Canaanites but rather a rebuttal of Dawkin’s own book The God Delusion. And if Dawkins thought Craig to be such a villain, would he not want to have a debate with Craig on the Canaanite dilemma?  As I see it, there are a few signs that indicate that the intellectual integrity of the New Atheism is crumbling.

Craig v Krauss 03     1.     “Ad Hominem” Attacks

As mentioned earlier, William Lane Craig (Christian apologist, professional philosopher, and research professor of philosophy at Biola University) debated Lawrence Krauss (Atheist apologist, theoretical physicist, and professor at Arizona State University) in a series of debates in Australia. On a recent podcast of Reasonable Faith, Kevin Harris, co-host of the show, said to William Lane Craig concerning the debate in Brisbane, “The first debate is one that everyone is talking about. It became a symphony of personal attacks upon (Craig) by Dr. Krauss and it has really distracted from the issues being debated” (Craig and Harris, Reasonable Faith Podcast). The debate was on the topic, “Has Science Buried God.” Yet, Krauss insisted on attacking Craig’s integrity. Krauss did not focus on the issues at hand, but went after Craig. This is nothing particularly new. Alex Rosenberg did quite the same (although to a much lesser degree) in a previous debate with Craig. This seems to be a going trend.

But it must be asked, “Why use such tactics?” If the arguments of the New Atheists are so potent as purported, why not lean upon those arguments instead of attacking the person? In fact, the attack of a person instead of the argument is an error in logic called “ad hominem.” The phrase “ad hominem” means “against the man.” This occurs when the person has no grounds for defending one’s position and is therefore left attacking the integrity of the person. This is also a courtroom tactic. When there is little evidence to support one’s case, the integrity of the witnesses are attacked. If the witness can be shown to be untrustworthy, then their testimony is thrown out of court. However in debates, this is a bad tactic especially when an argument is on trial. I do not agree with the personal attacks on Dr. Craig. I met Dr. Craig at a conference. Although I do not know him personally, I can attest to the integrity of his work. Having met him the one time, I can say that he was very gracious and kind. I am a pretty good judge of character and I do not see him being the charlatan that Krauss and others purport him to be. But that is besides the point. The strength of Dr. Craig’s arguments are found in the sound logic contained within. Even if he were a charlatan, that does not change the integrity of his claims. Being that he is an honest person and a logically sound person, he has become dangerous for the proponents of New Atheism.

Side Note: I have seen the use of “ad hominem” attacks firsthand. First a person will argue with you on the grounds of your argument. If they cannot overcome the soundness of one’s argument, then the person will get others to attack the same argument. If the argument still stands, then the “ad hominem” attacks begin. “Ad hominem” attacks are a sign that the person does not have a solid foundation on which to stand. This is not only true in theology and philosophy, but true in all areas.

craig-smiling     2.     Focus on the Form of Debate Instead of the Arguments in the Debate

Harris noted, “I have picked up on snippets of this that there is some coaching going on how to debate William Lane Craig. We know that he is going to be civil and he is not going to interrupt you. So take advantage of that” (Craig and Harris, Reasonable Faith Podcast). I think Harris is correct in his assessment. Multiple debaters accuse Craig of only possessing five arguments. One such debater accused Craig of this when Craig listed over eight arguments in the same debate. Regardless of whether Craig has five or fifteen lines of argument, it would appear that the accusers would attack the arguments instead of the number of Craig’s arguments.  For Krauss, his tactics bordered on the ludicrous. He had a buzzer and would buzz Dr. Craig during Craig’s argument. Krauss would make obnoxious gestures during Craig’s speeches. Does this show the sign of a great intellectual or the sign of an aged child who has no better argument to bring than to use the tactics of a first-grader on a playground?

As a preacher, I have seen much of the same. Some individuals will approach the pastor and say, “I wish you had more fire in your messages,” “I wish you would preach like Charles Stanley,” or “I wish you were more like Billy Graham.” Not to be harsh, but it would seem that the person would gain much more by listening to the content of the message instead of focusing on the method of delivery. The same holds true to these debates. Much more would be gained if the debate focused on the actual argument instead of ridiculous tactics used to simply gain the “cool” factor. It is not about being “cool.” It is about being correct.

lawrence-krauss-william-lane-craig     3.     Suppression of Intellectual Dialogue

Craig said that there was a use of “red herrings” in the debate in order to “try to move the audience emotionally” (Craig and Harris, Reasonable Faith Podcast). There is nothing inherently wrong with being a charismatic person and letting that charisma show in a debate. Krauss has a colorful, charismatic side. Can you imagine how effective Krauss would be if he were a Christian evangelist? However, the point is that the colorfulness evoked is many times a ruse to suppress intellectual dialogue. Krauss refused to have a formal debate. Why? He refused because he wanted a format in which he could bully, manipulate, and put on a public spectacle. But does such an exchange allow for solid intellectual dialogue? No. It becomes more the likes of a WWE show than it does a serious collegiate debate. Do you smeeelll what the Pastor is cooking? (My apologies to the Rock.) Dwayne_rock_JohnsonThis shows a serious problem with the New Atheist movement. If the tactics of Rosenberg and Krauss are indicators of what the New Atheist movement is becoming, serious searchers for truth will notice that the foundation of this movement is crumbling.

Conclusion

I am an evangelical Christian. I make no bones about that. However, anyone who knows my testimony knows that I nearly lost my faith by the claims made by the Jesus Seminar before being exposed to the case FOR Christianity. When the case for Christianity is presented intellectually and logically and is heard with an open mind and an open heart, a person will be led to the fact that Christianity is based on truth. Christianity holds up to the test. It is endures 2,000 years after several adversaries (with the same mentality of the New Atheists) proclaimed it dead. Those adversaries are long gone while Christianity lives on.

I cannot speak for anyone else. But, if I were a seeker searching for the truth, I would be persuaded to be a Christian theist over an atheist simply by the tactics being used for atheism (or a deist at the bare minimum). If it seems like there is something that the New Atheist debaters are wanting to hide, there is good reason. It seems that they want to hide the illogical nature of atheism. Even Trey Parker, a skeptic  and co-creator of the irreverent cartoon South Park said, “Out of all the ridiculous religion stories — which are greatly, wonderfully ridiculous — the silliest one I’ve ever heard is, ‘Yeah, there’s this big, giant universe and it’s expanding and it’s all going to collapse on itself and we’re all just here, just ‘cuz. Just ‘cuz. That to me, is the most ridiculous explanation ever” (Parker, ABCNews). Parker, who is no friend to religious belief and an equal opportunity offender, admits the illogical nature of atheism. Even if his point is sarcastic (which it doesn’t seem to be the case in this interview), Parker is correct in that the atheist belief that the design, structure, and existence of all things is simply based on an accident is a difficult idea to digest.

The fact is: most atheist debaters cannot stand up to William Craig, John Lennox, and Ravi Zacharias on their intellectual grounds of logic alone. They must use other tactics. This shows a weakness not so much in the debaters for atheism, but rather in the arguments for the New Atheism. Like the Berlin Wall, the intellectual integrity of the New Atheism is crumbling. This does not mean that there will not continue to be New Atheists who are just as dogmatic as ever. But what this does present is a great irony; the irony that the New Atheists hold to their belief by faith…a term that is despised in the New Atheist community.

Bibliography

ABC News. “Secrets of ‘South Park.’ (September 22, 2006.) Accessed September 30, 2013.

Craig, William Lane, and Kevin Harris. “The First Debate with Lawrence Krauss in Australia.” Reasonable Faith Podcast. (September 30, 2013). Accessed September 30, 2013.

Dawkins, Richard. “Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig,” The Guardian. October 20, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig. (Accessed September 30, 2013).

Is Atheism a Religion?

Not long ago, I joined in on a debate with an atheist on a social networking site.  This is not something I do much anymore, mainly because most individuals participating in debates have already made a decision and not open to dialogue.  On rare occasions, there is an openness to other views, but not always.  On one such occasion, I spoke with an atheist about his naturalistic convictions being his religion.  He said, “I don’t have any religion.”  I responded, “Well, as an atheist, you hold to certain beliefs and convictions.  This would seem to be a religion.”  He would not concede this point; neither would he even concede that he held a worldview.  Essentially, he was saying that didn’t believe in atheism although he was an atheist.  Go figure that one out.  That is on the same level as Lawrence Krauss’ “nothing is something” philosophy.

Nonetheless, this forces one to consider whether atheism could be considered a religion.  Does it meet the criteria of the “religion” definition?  In order to answer this, a definition of “religion” will be presented, marking some of the key characteristics of religion.  Then, the atheist worldview will be plugged into the definition to see if it matches.

religion icon

What is “Religion”?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “religion” as

re•li•gion \ri-ˈli-jən\ noun

[Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at rely] 13th century

1       a : the state of a religious 〈a nun in her 20th year of religion

b       (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural

(2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2       : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3       archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness

              4       : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith — re•li•gion•less adjective[1]

Definition 1b would definitely not apply to atheism.  However, the remaining definition seems to indicate that “religion” is a set of beliefs that one holds concerning reality.  One’s views about God (or the absence thereof); the universe, morality, life, and everything in between seem to be included in this definition.  Therefore, can atheism be considered a religious system?

atheist logo

 Atheism and the Qualifiers of a Religion

Atheism, like any other belief system, can be entered into the definitional testing grounds of religion.  Taking some of the core qualifiers for religion, does atheism meet the criteria?

What about “personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices”?  Is there a structure to the atheist paradigm?  Yes.  In some locations, atheist communities are developing.  There are even rituals in which some atheists participate, such as “de-baptisms.”[2]  Although beliefs among atheists vary, as do with almost all religions and worldviews, atheists hold many core tenets to their faith, such as: the rejection of God, the rejection of theistic and polytheistic institutions of faith, any notion of faith, the elevation of science above all other disciplines, and the glorification of hedonism.  If the reader does not think that these tenets are held by the majority of atheists, then check out visibly identified atheists on social networking and blogging sites.  The unity is amazing.  Even the debating styles are very similar.  The unification of these tenets causes atheism to possess qualities of a religious system.

What about “scrupulous conformity”?  As mentioned in the previous section, atheists hold many conformed ways of viewing the world.  In their quest to embrace inconformity, atheists have become conformed in their inconformity.  Many atheists use similar tactics in argumentation.  Even some illustrations used by atheists have become icons, such as the infamous “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”[3] Despite the atheist’s objections, this conformity has the attribute of a religious system.

flying spaghetti monster

What about “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”?  Richard Dawkins is an atheist evangelist.  On his foundation’s website, it is written, “The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) is a registered charity which promotes rationalism, humanism and science in a quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.”[4]  On this site, the reader will not only find the cause, listed above, but will find principles and a system of belief that is held by the supporters and adherents of Dawkin’s worldview.  These principles are held with great ardor and are supported by faith…faith that these principles are true.  Everyone has faith in something!  Therefore, atheism has another mark of religion.

Conclusion

Atheism clearly holds traits that correspond with the core definition of religion.  It is a system held with great faith and is promoted by the New Atheists with the fervor of an American Christian evangelist.  Atheists, and secularists in general, do not want you to believe that their worldview is religious in nature.  They will claim “separation of church and state” when Christians, Jews, and Muslims express their faith with symbols and literature.  Yet, they hold certain symbols and literature with great reverence.  Many hold similar social beliefs and even dialogue in the same fashion.  Therefore, it is in this writer’s opinion that atheism holds all the hallmarks of a religion.  The trouble is that those from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other like-minded organizations are really not seeking “separation of church and state.”  Secular supporters actually support “separation of any other belief system than ours and the state”.  In the end, atheism is a religion just like any other belief system.  Let us, who know the true power of God, pray that their eyes will see, their ears will hear, and their hearts will be softened to accept the truth found in Christ Jesus.

Jesus with Prayer Hood


        [1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

     [2] De-baptisms are irreverent acts in which atheists employ the use of hair-dryers to “de-baptize” themselves, or revoke their previous baptisms.

[3] The “Flying Spaghetti Monster” is an atheist’s attempt to present make-believe things as real.  The “Flying Spaghetti Monster” is a creation of Bobby Henderson.  Henderson attempted to debunk creationism and intelligent design with the fictional character.  A famous quote from the argument is “may you be blessed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendage.”  What the irreverent argument neglects is the argument from necessity.  There is no necessity to a Flying Spaghetti Monster’s existence.  Certain beings can be known to exist due to necessity.  For instance, a person’s existence necessitates the existence of a mother and father regardless if they are known by the person’s friend.  In like manner, God’s existence is logically necessary due to the existence of the universe, the laws of nature, and the information found in the universe (along with many other reasons).

      [4] http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org. Accessed July 28, 2013.

Should Believers Worry About Anything Found By Science?

Many have postulated that a rivalry exists between faith and reason, philosophy and physics, and the Bible and science.  As one could note from previous posts, this writer does not view that such an antagonism exists.  Should there be a rivalry between these two entities?  Furthermore, should the Christian be afraid of scientific discoveries?

Is There a Rivalry Between Faith and Science?

Some ultra-fundamentalist preachers would have you believe that science is from the Devil while foaming at the mouth and turning fifty shades of red.  Unfortunately, some scientists at Space.com, LiveScience.com, and other popular scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, would lead one to believe that faith is for those who are fanciful, mentally-challenged, or unable to cope with the challenges of life.  The mantra of Karl Marx, “Religion is the opium of the masses” is also the mantra of many secular scientists.  No wonder there is so much strife.  But, should there really be a dividing line?

Honestly, faith and science are two sides of the same coin.  Although scientists seek philosophical meanings to discoveries and theologians  present scientific discoveries into their rationale, the science and religious systems answer two very different questions.  Science is only equipped to answer the “how” questions.  How did the universe begin?  How do animals adapt?  How do weather patterns develop?  Religion and philosophy answer the “why” questions.  Why did the universe begin?  Why are animals designed to adapt for survival?  Why do weather patterns develop or not develop?

In order to complete a full search for truth, one must engage both.  Unfortunately, many ministers have given unqualified scientific assumptions without doing the research.  Equally unfortunate, many scientists have made huge philosophical blunders by assuming that science shows more than it really does.  Does the Higgs Boson disprove God?  Of course not!  One would expect to find a step that allowed for elements in the universe to have mass since elements in the universe possess mass.

                 

John Lennox and Henry Ford

Dr. John Lennox, a triple-doctorate, professor at Oxford University, scientist, and devoted Christian, said at a conference, “Secularists have stated that they have never found God in the universe.  I say, ‘Well of course you haven’t.’  That would be like trying to find Henry Ford in a Ford engine” (John Lennox, “Gunning For God lecture,” National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Central Church of God. Hosted by Southern Evangelical Seminary. Charlotte, NC. October 2012).  Lennox brings an outstanding point.  Just as Henry Ford is greater and more complex than the Ford engine that he developed, so God is far greater and more complex than the universe that is created.  The scientist in all of his/her glory is not equipped to answer theological questions.  The same is true for theologians who have not researched science.  Lennox is both a theologian and a scientist.

Lennox wrote, “ Physical laws on their own cannot create anything; they are merely a (mathematical) description of what normally happens under certain given conditions.  Newton’s law of gravitation does not create gravity; it does not even explain gravity, as Newton himself realized.  In fact, the laws of physics are not only incapable of creating anything; they cannot even cause anything to happen” (John Lennox, Gunning For God. Oxford, UK: Lion Books, 2011. pg. 33).  So, essentially, science explains the way the universe operates.  Scientists are like mechanics seeking to work with a universe already created.  

Conclusion

So, is there a problem between science and faith?  No, not at all.  What about certain popular problems between faith and science?

Evolution vs. Creation

What about evolution vs. creation?  Well, I would say that evolution is at a crisis point.  It is not the cure-all solution to the atheist’s problem of God.  Even if evolution were true, the process would still show the need for intelligence on a grand scale.  The process would require a Designer to set it up.  A process without a Processor would be like a computer program without a programmer.  It is illogical at its core.  Evolution would not even negate the influence of a Creator’s hand bringing forth the mutations at certain points…if the theory IS true.  Like most things, proponents of Darwinian evolution have swept many of the problems with the theory under the rug.  There are glaring holes in the naturalist’s presentation of the evolutionary theory such as the problem of the Cambrian explosion.  It seems that if challenges are made, Darwinian advocates are quick to shut-down any opposition.  Is this really science?  Many Christians have set a line in the sand that they are afraid to examine the issue.  But, evolution and a Creator could coincide.  The question is whether evolution really IS true; but that is for another article.

Big Bang Theory and Christianity

What about the issue of the Big Bang?  Did you know that the theory was developed by a Christian scientist?  Lennox writes, “Again it was a theist, not an atheist, who had the idea that led to the current widely accepted Big Bang model of the origin of the universe.  George Lemaitre (1894-1966), a Belgian priest and astronomer, challenged the theory of an eternal universe that held sway for centuries, and which even Einstein held at the time (Aristotle’s influence, once more).  Lemaitre made a brilliant application of Einstein’s theory of relativity to cosmology, and in 1927 worked out a precursor of Hubble’s Law regarding the fact that the universe is expanding” (Lennox, 29).  Is there a discrepancy between science and faith?  No, because the Bible declares, “All things through Him (God) came to be, and without Him (God) not one thing came to be which came to be” (John 1:3, The New Greek-English Interlinear: New Testament, J.D. Douglas, editor).

What about M-Theory, Higgs Boson, and recent discoveries?

M-theory posits the existence of a multiverse.  This theory is losing ground.  However, even if it is true, this would not negate the need for God, for the multiverse would need to have a beginning itself if it is a natural entity.  The Higgs Boson (otherwise called the “God Particle”) would be expected.  The Higgs Boson in no ways negates the need for God.  If a mechanic developed a combustion system for an engine, the discovery of the combustion’s trigger would by no way negate the need for a grand designer of engine.

Nothing that is discovered will ever take away the necessity of God’s existence.  God is necessary for the world, the universe, structure, laws, processes, and the like to exist.  This does not even enter in the complexities of consciousness, energy, and life.  Science and faith coincide hand-in-hand.  Unfortunately, combative scientists and combative Christians have promoted a war that should not exist.  In the end, we all lose if we choose one over the other.  For the scientist who strays from religion and philosophy, there is a loss of logic, hope, and love (not to mention eternal ramifications).  For the faithful who strays from science, there is a loss of reason, progress, and discovery.  So, should believers worry about anything found by science?  Absolutely not.  Scientists are simply finding what God knew from the beginning.

Blessings,

Pastor Brian Chilton

Worldview Analysis of Secular Humanism

The following is a recent paper that I wrote on Secular Humanism for a class at Liberty.  Hope you enjoy it.

Worldview Analysis of Secular Humanism

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

The Christian theist is opposed by many worldviews.  While various religions and worldviews have been around since the early stages of human history, one such worldview has grown in prominence in recent times: secular humanism.  This paper will give a summary of secular humanism’s core beliefs, will give a critique of secular humanism, and will pose a method of sharing the gospel with a secular humanist.  Is secular humanism reasonable?  To answer the question, a summary of secular humanism must first be given.

Summary of Secular Humanism

Secular humanism is a worldview held by atheists and/or agnostics that promotes the human above all things.  SecularHumanism.org, a site devoted to secular humanism, defines secular humanism as the following:

Secular humanism is comprehensive, touching every aspect of life including issues of values, meaning, and identity…Secular humanism is nonreligious, espousing no belief in a realm or beings imagined to transcend ordinary experience…Secular humanism is philosophically naturalistic. It holds that nature (the world of everyday physical experience) is all there is…Secular humanism provides a cosmic outlook—a world-view in the broadest sense, grounding our lives in the context of our universe and relying on methods demonstrated by science…Secular humanists hold that ethics is consequential, to be judged by results.[1]

The secular humanist evaluates everything from the perspective of what is seen or what can be known by the senses.  Therefore, a belief for the secular humanist is brought forth not only by what can be experienced through the senses but also by that which is tested using scientific methodology.  Sam Harris, an atheist, defines “belief” in the following way, “The brain’s capacity to accept such propositions as true—as valid guides to behavior and emotion, as predictive of future outcomes, etc.—explains the transformative power of words.  There is a common term we use for this type of acceptance; we call it ‘belief.’[2]  So the secular humanist would have no room for God or for anything “supernatural” due to the heavy dependency upon the human sensory experience.  For this reason, the secular humanist defends evolution with the fire of a Christian evangelist.  As Geisler wrote, “Evolution is the secular humanist’s way to explain origins.  Either the universe and living things originated by means of the intervention of a supernatural Creator, or they evolved by purely naturalistic means.  Nontheists thus have no choice but to defend evolution.[3]  No worldview is free from critique.  Secular humanism contains several problems.  The next section will address two of the problems found in secular humanism.

Critiques of Secular Humanism

Secular humanism holds many glaring holes at the core of its philosophy.  Many pages could be written, but for the sake of space, this section will focus on two implosions or fatal flaws found at the core of secular humanist thinking: the implosion of causal relationships and the implosion of the humanist’s own morality.

Secular humanism implodes by causal relationships.  The scientific method is based on cause/effect relationships.  This is the crux of scientific research.  However, modern secular humanists, especially humanists’ associated with the New Atheism, seem to bypass the necessity of causal relationships when it comes to the origin of the universe.  Something must be eternal.  Either the universe is eternal or a transcendent God is eternal.

The secular humanist seems comfortable in espousing that the universe came from nothing.  Famed atheist Richard Dawkins wrote in the afterword of A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, “Finally, and inevitably, the flat universe will further flatten into a nothingness that mirrors its beginning.[4]  This is problematic at its core.  How is it that the universe (something) can become nothing?  Furthermore, how is it that nothing can produce something?  Is the “nothing” that is presented actually be “something”?  If the “nothing” is “something,” then the “nothing” is not really “nothing” but “something.”  A thing cannot both exist and be non-existent at the same time.  A thing either is or is not but it cannot be both.  Therefore, an uncaused cause must exist.  The secular humanist would claim that the universe has always existed and has gone through an infinite regress of past events.

Logic shows that an infinite regress of past events is impossible in the natural sphere.  If this is impossible, then God’s existence is far more reasonable than it would be to espouse that the universe was a “nothing” turned “something.”  As Craig and Sinclair write, “When we use the word ‘exist,’ we mean ‘be instantiated in the mind-independent world’…Since an actual infinite cannot exist and an infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite, we may conclude that an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.  Therefore, since the temporal regress of events is finite, the universe began to exist.”[5]  Since there cannot be an infinite regress of past events and the beginning of the universe cannot be attributed to “nothingness,” the only logical cause of the universe and everything within it is an uncaused agent we know as God.  If humans can believe things from logic, which many humanists would agree, then belief in God is warranted, if not demanded, due to the necessity of an uncaused cause for all natural things.  But, secular humanism implodes on another front: its own morality.

Secular humanism promotes morality, but the humanist’s morality implodes as the humanist does not really possess a standard for morality.  The Humanist Manifesto II states, “Ethics stems from human need and interest.  To deny this distorts the whole basis of life.”[6]  If the humanist is correct, then humanity should become more moral over time and the humanist should be the most moral person of all.  However, this is not the case.  John Lennox eloquently writes, “…I would like to ask you also to imagine a world with no atheism.  No Stalin, no Mao, no Pol Pot, just to name the heads of the three officially atheistic states that were responsible for some of the worst mass crimes of the twentieth century.[7]  In addition, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot operated from what they considered to be their own needs and interests.  Therefore, the secular humanist has no standard for morality whatsoever because all morality becomes relative.  So, how would you share the gospel with a secular humanist?

Proposed Plan for Sharing the Gospel with the Secular Humanist

The secular humanist holds a high view of humanity and a low view of the supernatural.  The Christian theist, or evangelist, should approach the secular humanist differently than that of other worldviews.  In some respects, sharing the gospel with the secular humanist requires steps that adherents of other worldviews would not require.  Four steps should be used to reach the secular humanist beginning with objective truth.

The evangelist must first present to the secular humanist that objective truths exist.  Many secular humanists have fallen into relativistic thinking.  An easy way to present the flaws in relativist thinking is to show that relative statements are given objectively.  Therefore, even the relativist benefits from objectivity when promoting relative claims.  Once the evangelist lays out the logic and standards of objective truth; the Christian evangelist moves on to show the necessity of God’s existence.

The Christian evangelist would do well to know and present the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for God’s existence.  The secular humanist should be shown that God’s existence is not only reasonable but also necessary to explain the existence of anything.  This step could take a considerable amount of time depending on the secular humanists’ level of opposition.  From here, the evangelist would move to God’s revelation given in the Bible.

The evangelist needs to show that God has given a personal revelation concerning Himself in the Bible.  The evangelist would do well to present archaeological evidences for the Bible and must be able to show the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Some secular humanists make assumptions against the Bible without research.  Lastly, the evangelist would present the person of Jesus Christ to the secular humanist.

The gospel message will be shared completely with the secular humanist as the evangelist presents the person of Jesus Christ.  At this stage, the legitimacy for the Bible and truth will be established.  Here, the evangelist shows the need for salvation and the message of salvation.  Since the secular humanist holds ethics in high regard, the evangelist should present the high ethical message given by Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Secular humanism is not a reasonable worldview.  Secular humanism holds that morality is based upon the person and no other.  Yet, that relativist thinking leads to a vast array of logical inconsistencies which eventually ends with no establishment of moral reckoning.  Secular humanism holds to science as a means to know everything.  Yet, science cannot prove the need for science.  Also, the secular humanist must deny the very principle upon which the foundation of science is built, causal relationships, by denying the necessity of a first cause to all natural things.  The Christian theist would do well to present the need for objective truth, the necessity of God’s existence, the revelation of God given in the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ to the secular humanist.  While the secular humanist has built a foundation upon logical inconsistencies, the evangelist must remember that the secular humanist is foremost a soul in need of salvation.

Bibliography

American Humanist Association. 1973. “Ethics,” Humanist Manifesto II. http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II (accessed April 25, 2013).

 Council for Secular Humanism, “What Is Secular Humanism?” http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=what_is (accessed April 24, 2013).

Craig, William Lane, and James D. Sinclair, “The Kalaam Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology ed. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 117.

Dawkins, Richard, Afterword to A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012), 188.

Geisler, Norman, “Humanism, Secular,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 342.

Harris, Sam, “Belief,” The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York, NY: Free Press, 2010), 115.

Lennox, John, “Is Atheism Poisonous,” Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Mark (Oxford, UK: Lion Publishers, 2011), 83.

 


[1] Council for Secular Humanism, “What Is Secular Humanism?,” http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=what_is (accessed April 24, 2013).

[2] Sam Harris, “Belief,” The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York, NY: Free Press, 2010), 115.

 [3] Norman Geisler, “Humanism, Secular,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 342.

[4] Richard Dawkins, afterword to A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012), 188.

[5] William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair, “The Kalaam Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology ed. William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 117.

[6] American Humanist Association. 1973. “Ethics,” Humanist Manifesto II. http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II (accessed April 25, 2013).

[7] John Lennox, “Is Atheism Poisonous,” Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Mark (Oxford, UK: Lion Publishers, 2011), 83.