Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are Christians Atheists, Too?

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”-Stephen Roberts

In the above quote, Mr. Roberts would have you believe that they are. This quote first appeared around late 1995 as used by Stephen Roberts, an atheist who frequently debated individuals regarding the existence of God. I would like take a look at this quote and break it down and show its logical fallacies.

First, let’s define the word “atheist”.  According to Dictionary.com, the word atheist is defined as, “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” Keep this definition in mind as we continue on. Mr. Roberts (and the many others who have adopted this popular tag line) would have you to believe, as the basis of their argument, that you as a Christian are also an atheist. However, is it possible to believe in something (a Supreme Being) and yet deny or disbelieve in the very same thing you believe? It makes such little sense that it is almost dizzying trying to break the logic down! You simply cannot be a believer who disbelieves.  This is the first logical fallacy in Mr. Roberts’ logic.
However, for the sake of argument, we will grant Mr. Roberts the benefit of the doubt and agree that he means we are disbelievers in the other gods which we reject, even though this does not make us atheists. For the sake of argument, we will concede that we do, in fact, disbelieve in any other god.

Mr. Roberts continues his logic by saying that once we understand why we dismiss all the other possible gods, then we will understand why he dismisses our God. The problem Mr. Roberts runs into is that he, either by ignorance or by maliciousness, overlooks the many evidences that support a Christian’s belief in the God of the Bible.

For example, the entire Bible is filled with scientific facts that were recorded in the Biblical scripture before man’s discovery of said facts. In other words, the Bible reveals true scientific facts pre-enlightenment of man, or before man discovered them. Let’s take a look at just a few of these examples;

1) David in Psalms 8:8 alludes to "whatsoever passes through the paths of the sea." It wasn't until 1860 that Matthew Fontaine Maury, a pioneer oceanographer confirmed that there were indeed paths, or currents in the oceans.

2)Isaiah 40:23 states that the Earth was a sphere, "circle of the Earth". This is thousands of years before Columbus sailed for the new world, believing still that the Earth was flat!

3) Job 26:7 said that the Earth hangs on nothing, it is free floating "He suspends the Earth on nothing." Science in those days believed the Earth sat on the back of a large animal. It was not until thousands of years later that we discovered it hung, literally from nothing.

4)Samuel 22:16, Jonah 2:6 says that the bottom of the oceans contained deep valleys and trenches in the floors, "The valleys of the sea were exposed.." We have just recently within the last century gained the technology capable of confirming this claim by viewing the ocean floors!

5) Job 38:16 tells us that the oceans are fed by fresh water springs in the floors, "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?" Again, we have just recently gained the technology to confirm this.

6) Jeremiah 33:22 says that there is an incalcuble number of stars, "..minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky.." Today, scientists are still trying to count them, and admit there is an infinite number.

I think we would all agree that there is no way for mere men to know these facts as they were recorded thousands of years before they were discovered by science. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Would you like to discuss some more?

7) The Earth sits at the perfect distance from the Sun in order to sustain life. If it sat 1/8 of an inch closer, the Earth would be scorched. However, if it were just 1/9 of an inch further away from the Sun, we would freeze to death.

8) Even the Earth's tilt on it's axis is perfect for life. Earth sits at a 23.5 degree angle which is perfect for regulating our summers and winters. This keeps us from being one giant desert due to extended summers, or one giant ice chunk because of extended winters.

9) 70% of our atmospheric oxygen comes from phytoplankton in our oceans. Everyone knows of course that our tides are regulated by the Earth's moon. However, did you know that if the moon was any closer to Earth it would create tidal waves so big it would crush all life? Any further away and the lack of tides would cause the oceans to go stagnant killing all phytoplankton, and oxygen production along with them.

Can God be muted? Can He be silenced by man? In order to deny God, it is not enough for man to just close their hearts to Him, we would also have to close our eyes to the world around us. God's signature is everywhere, and in all things. An atheist would have a better chance of silencing a hurricane than he would at silencing God.

A belief in any other god is lacking in the scientific foreknowledge or evidence that a belief in the God of the Bible. Allah, Zeus, Shivah nor any other “deity” can make the claim that Jehovah God did. It is the duty and responsibility to know these facts because they support their faith, and that is what we are called to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” and 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness”.

Yet, let’s cut to the chase as to what Mr. Roberts is implying when he says, “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” What he’s really implying is that we, as Christians, are ignorant as to our faith and accept it only because of familial or cultural standards. He implies that we reject any other god because they are not the god we were taught to worship in our society. This leaves me with a very perplexing question; “What then is the cultural or societal god that Mr. Roberts grew up being taught to accept?” After all, if we reject all others because of our discriminations then what are the discriminations that Mr. Roberts holds?

The only answer that is left to Mr. Roberts would be himself. Yet, if we cannot accept the existence of god based on the evidences that are available to us, then we commit a logical fallacy by accepting that Mr. Roberts exists based on any evidences that might suggest such. Do you see the circular (and faulty) logic that is presented here? If we reject the existence of someone or something regardless of evidences that points to the existence of one thing, we must be consistent and reject the existence of anything else based on evidences that point to it.

So while this quote may sound witty and seem like a good punch line, we need to see that it has many logical fallacies within it, and should not be considered as a valid argument against the existence of God.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"He Gave"

There is no doubt that it is the most well known, most frequently quoted verse in all the Bible. Little children learn it in Sunday school before they even learn to write their own names. It has been called "The entire Bible summed up in one verse" by those who know the Bible the best. Its words were spoken by the man who knew the Father (and the Father's plans) the best. I'm sure by now you have an idea of which verse I'm referring to..

John 3:16.

Did you immediately quote the verse in your mind after seeing it? I know I do every time I see it. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life." 

It is a truly beautiful verse, and one that is perhaps taken for granted more than any other. I know I am guilty of taking it for granted, often quoting it as fast as I can, but not really paying attention to what Christ is truly saying in its context. However, that has changed, and with it, my appreciation for what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that fateful night.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that changed a wretch like me..." We sing the song all the time in church, but its lyrics would be meaningless if not for the message contained in John 3:16. More specifically, if not for two words found within John 3:16;

The words "He gave..".

Two simple words, yet such a powerful thought.

Think about what is being said in those who simple words. Six letters saying so much! God was sinned against by man and was therefore owed justice. Yet, because He loved us so much that 'He gave' in order to bring peace between Him and us. Yes, it was 'Amazing Grace' that changed us from the wretches we once were into His children.

Because of the fact that God is a God of justice (Psalm 89:14), He demanded that a price be paid for man's transgressions, yet because God is also a God of mercy (1 Peter 1:3), He paid the price Himself through His only begotten son, Jesus (John 3:16).

God loves you so much that He gave so that you and I wouldn't have to. The truth is, you and I couldn't pay the price even if we wanted (Rom. 3:23, John 14:6).

What an odd situation by today's standards; The One who was owed was also the One who paid. It is such a foreign concept to us. Yet, despite how foreign it may be, we should always be thankful for those two little words...

"He gave...".