The Atheistic Literary Style

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I’m currently about halfway through G.K. Chesterton’s book Eugenics and Other Evils, and as always, am quite enjoying his keen wit and wisdom. Earlier today I came across this passage I found particularly interesting, in which the author observes that atheists write in their own unique and characteristic style:

[T]here is such a thing as an atheistic literary style… materialism may appear in the mere diction of a man, though he be speaking of clocks or cats or anything quite remote from theology. The mark of the atheistic style is that it instinctively chooses the word which suggests that things are dead things; that things have no souls. Thus they will not speak of waging war, which means willing it; they speak of the “outbreak of war,” as if all the guns blew up without the men touching them. Thus those Socialists that are atheist will not call their international sympathy, sympathy; they will call it “solidarity,” as if the poor men of France and Germany were physically stuck together like dates in a grocer’s shop. The same Marxian Socialists are accused of cursing the Capitalists inordinately; but the truth is that they let the Capitalists off much too easily. For instead of saying that employers pay less wages, which might pin the employers to some moral responsibility, they insist on talking about the “rise and fall” of wages; as if a vast silver sea of sixpences and shillings was always going up and down automatically like the real sea at Margate. Thus they will not speak of reform, but of development; and they spoil their one honest and virile phrase, “the class war,” by talking of it as no one in his wits can talk of a war, predicting its finish and final result as one calculates the coming of Christmas Day or the taxes. Thus, lastly (as we shall see touching our special subject-matter here) the atheist style in letters always avoids talking of love or lust, which are things alive, and calls marriage or concubinage “the relations of the sexes”; as if a man and a woman were two wooden objects standing in a certain angle and attitude to each other, like a table and a chair.

Chesterton was writing half a century before Francis Schaeffer and others began writing about worldviews, but he’s talking about the same thing. Our presuppositions about how the world came into existence and how it continues to work really do affect the way we think–and write–about everything “from clocks to cats.”

Where Can I Hide From God?

I love this passage from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which the great Reformation theologian expounds upon the sensus divinitatis — the “sense of the divine” — which exists within every human mind. Calvin argues that even those who most despise God are unable to escape the awareness of divinity which is “engraved upon men’s minds”:

If, indeed, there were some in the past, and today not a few appear, who deny that God exists, yet willy-nilly they from time to time feel an inkling of what they desire not to believe. One reads of no one who burst forth into bolder or more unbridled contempt of deity than Gaius Caligula; yet no one trembled more miserably when any sign of God’s wrath manifested itself; thus — albeit unwillingly — he shuddered at the God whom he professedly sought to despise. You may see now and again how this also happens to those like him; how he who is the boldest despiser of God is of all men the most startled at the rustle of a falling leaf.

Whence does this arise but from the vengeance of divine majesty, which strikes their consciences all the more violently the more they try to flee from it? Indeed, they seek out every subterfuge to hide themselves from the Lord’s presence, and to efface it again from their minds. But in spite of themselves they are always entrapped. Although it may sometimes seem to vanish for a moment, it returns at once and rushes in with new force. If for these there is any respite from anxiety of conscience, it is not much different from the sleep of drunken or frenzied persons, who do not rest peacefully even while sleeping because they are continually troubled with dire and dreadful dreams. The imious themselves therefore exemplify the fact that some conception of God is ever alive in all men’s minds.

Debating Who Made God

One of my favorite books of the last couple years is Edgar Andrews’ Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything (my review is here). If you’re at all interested in the origins debate, I highly recommend checking out this book.

You might also be interested in two recent debates, in which Andrews took on a pair of atheists on related subjects. Andrews also famously debated Richard Dawkins in 1986. Here are links to the audio from these recent debates:

What Created the Universe? — A debate with Robert Stovold, an atheist with a background in evolutionary biology. They discuss fine tuning of the Universe, whether God could be behind the Big Bang and why the laws of nature are so elegant and intelligible to humans.

Did Man Make God, or Did God Make Man? — A debate with Lewis Wolpert, Vice President of the British Humanist Association. He argues tht belief in God is purely a result of evolution. They debate what constitutes “evidence” for God, and whether science is the only admissible type of evidence.

What If: The Debate

Below is an ongoing conversation that has been taking place in the comments section of my last blog. In that post, I posed the idea that Christians need to think more skeptically (in the truest sense of the word) about our faith, and challenged Atheists to ask the question “What If?”

One Atheist and Skeptic, who writes under the name “morsecOde” and maintains the weblog “Suddenly Atheist”, posed a simple response to my blog; one which has led to a lengthy and fascinating (to me anyway) debate. I am re-posting this series of comments because I think these are the type of conversations that Christians need to be having, and it seems a shame that it should stay buried in the comments section. I know that several of you who read my blog do it via the RSS feed to your e-mail address or on Facebook, where these comments do not show up.

morsecOde’s initial comment:

honeyandlocusts wrote:
But if you are an Atheist — a true Skeptic — then you owe it to yourself to ask yourself the question of what if?

Why do you assume we haven’t?

My response:

I assume no such thing, although there are very many people who have not asked that question. Assuming by your comment that you have asked that question, I would be curious to hear what answers you have.

If the Bible is true, then why would you not want to have eternal life? Have you thought about the alternative? And please know that this is not a “scare tactic”, but an actual philosophical question.

If you do not believe that the Bible is true, what is your reasoning?

I believe that God loves you and has a plan for your life, and I truly do want you to share in the joy that I have as a Christian!

morsecOde’s reply:

honeyandlocusts wrote:
If the Bible is true, then why would you not want to have eternal life?

I might. But then again, ‘eternal life’ doesn’t sound that tempting to me. In complete honesty, living forever suggests that it would be quite boring after a while. “A while” might be several million or billion years, sure. But when talking about ‘forever’, a billion years is a drop in the bucket.

Also, assuming the Bible were true, wouldn’t you get eternal life either way? Obviously WHERE you spent that time would change, but you’d get to live forever regardless.

Now, as to Heaven and Hell…I don’t know what kind of Christian you are. So if any of my assumptions or guesses or inaccurate, please let me know.

But most Christians, the ones I debate with any way, have suggested that unbelief sends you straight to hell. Now, they word it differently, of course. However, the bottom line is that two people who live identical lives, with the only difference being one believes and the other doesn’t, the unbeliever would be tortured for all eternity.

I would have no desire to spend any time worshiping the type of deity who tortures people for eternity merely because they don’t believe the right thing.

And beyond that, there is nothing I find more immoral or unjust than punishing someone infinitely for finite crimes.

And suppose I do end up believing and do go to heaven. I could not stand it knowing that there were people being tortured for all eternity for finite ‘crimes’. I would be pained by it, and thus it wouldn’t be heaven for me. And if somehow I was made to think that it was good that those people were being tortured forever, then I would no longer be myself.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
If you do not believe that the Bible is true, what is your reasoning?

No good evidence for the supernatural claims it presents.

My response:

First of all, morsecOde, let me thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to post a thoughtful reply. I always appreciate the opportunity to engage in civil conversation about faith with those of differing views. Let me also say that I have no interest in having an “argument” with you. My intent is not to prove to you or to anyone else the rightness of my point of view, for I, like everyone else, am a flawed human, and am bound to make mistakes. It is, however, my prayer that you would be persuaded to judge the God of the Bible not by the words or actions of flawed (and often judgmental and hypocritical) Christians, but by whom He has revealed Himself to be in His Word and in His Creation.

morsecOde wrote:
‘eternal life’ doesn’t sound that tempting to me. In complete honesty, living forever suggests that it would be quite boring after a while.

Friend, I have heard nearly every version of the “why not to be a Christian” argument, but of them all, this one saddens me the most. Are you not able to find joy and adventure just living each day? (And if not, allow me to tell you about the reason for MY joy!) How much more joy and adventure might we find spending FOREVER with the Creator of everything, who desires to lavish His children with good things (Mt. 7:11)? Boring? That’s the last word I would use to describe an eternity with a God who calls all the wonderfully created things that exist in this world “but a shadow of the things to come” (Col. 2:17)!

morsecOde wrote:
assuming the Bible were true, wouldn’t you get eternal life either way?

The idea that there is eternal life for everyone is one of the greatest lies in which mankind has ever believed, but it is certainly not what the Bible says. The idea did originate in Scripture, however, in Genesis 3:4, when Satan said, “You will not surely die.” It was Adam & Eve’s (and every human’s) belief in this lie that led to the sin that condemns us all to death.

The Bible is clear, though, as I wrote in my blog above, that we are all eternal beings with an eternal soul. We will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell. Hell is described as a punishment of eternal destruction (Mt. 25:41, 2 Thess. 1:8-9) in a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). That doesn’t sound much like “life” to me.

morsecOde wrote:
I would have no desire to spend any time worshiping the type of deity who tortures people for eternity merely because they don’t believe the right thing.

God does not “send” people to Hell. In fact, He is not wishing that any would perish (2 Pet. 3:9, Ez. 18:32)! We each have a choice, but, sadly, many choose to believe the lies rather than the Truth of God (Rom. 1:25).

Also, it is not God who “tortures” people. Separation from God IS the torture! He is the Creator of everything, and without Him there is nothing but death (John 1:3). That separation is not the result of God turning away from us, but of us turning away from Him (Is. 53:6).

morsecOde wrote:
there is nothing I find more immoral or unjust than punishing someone infinitely for finite crimes.

There are two problems with this statement: One is philosophical, the other is factual. I’ll begin with the factual error, because it’s the easiest to address. The Bible does NOT describe “infinite punishment” for finite crimes, if I understand correctly your usage of those terms. Each of us commits these “finite crimes” (if I may use your term) every day, because we have a sinful nature. As hard as I try to repress that nature, I fail, because I am human. However, by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8), there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1) for those finite sins! There is only one sin for which there is infinite punishment, and that is the sin of rejecting Christ Jesus as Lord. If we die without correcting this sin (note: All of the finite sins, for which there is forgiveness, are sins that we have committed in the past – we cannot correct them; the only sin for which there is no forgiveness is the one sin that we have the opportunity to correct at any moment), then that sin is an infinite sin, and carries with it eternal consequences.

As for the philosophical problem with your statement, it is this: It really doesn’t matter what you or I find immoral or unjust! God is the Creator of the world, and He gets to make the rules. Of course, if there is no God, as you claim, then you have no basis for even using the word “immoral”. Morality implies that there is such a thing as right and wrong. If there is no God, then on what grounds do you base your concept of morality?

Having said all that, I do believe that God exists, and that He is a righteous and just God. If God is one who sends people to Hell and tortures them for eternity, then that seems inconsistent with a God of love and mercy. I get that. I understand where you’re coming from. But as I’ve shown above, that is NOT the picture that Scripture gives us of our God!

The God of the Bible is one who says, “I know you’ve broken all the rules, but I love you anyway. I love you so much that I want to spend FOREVER with you! Come to me. Love me. Follow me, and I will take you with me to a place I am preparing where we can spend eternity together.”

When people who have been given that choice choose to reject the free gift of salvation that God is offering, and then end up spending an eternity apart from God, how is that anything BUT just? I think that if you or I were the ones defining morality, sinners might not have so many chances at redemption. Thank God that our Creator is a God of justice AND mercy!

morsecOde wrote:
I could not stand it knowing that there were people being tortured for all eternity for finite ‘crimes’. I would be pained by it, and thus it wouldn’t be heaven for me.

My friend, it is precisely this pain of knowing that people will be eternally separated from God that causes me to care enough about you to take the time to share all these things. God loves you (that’s not just a catchy slogan, you know), and because He loves you, those who are called by His name are burdened for the souls of the lost. I don’t want to “convert” you so that you’ll be like me… I want you to have what I have! For those of us who have hope in the Lord Jesus, it is painful to think that others would reject what is so simple to attain.

But that sorrow is for now. In Heaven, the Bible says that God will wipe every tear, and there will be no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain (Rev. 21:4). I admit that I cannot fathom this, but I presume that is the reason why He said in the next verse that He is “making all things new”. If we did not have new understanding in Heaven, it would be hard not to be overcome by sadness for those loved ones who are not with us, but I believe we will be so overcome with the joy of our Lord that there will be no room for sorrow.

morsecOde wrote:
No good evidence for the supernatural claims it presents

I know that, most likely, nothing I’ve said is new to you. I also know that, without the belief that the Bible is true, the Scriptures that I have referenced to support my claims are likely meaningless to you. However, do not confuse a lack of belief in the evidence with a lack of evidence.

I cannot possibly, in the scope of a blog comment, present overwhelming evidence to support every “supernatural” claim presented in the Bible. Being Easter week, however, let’s look at just some of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, the most important and unlikely event in the Bible.

He was seen after his crucifixion by over 500 people, many of whom refused to deny that claim even to their own deaths. In courts, trials can hinge on the evidence of just two or three “eyewitness” accounts, much less 500! Their testimony was “believable” enough at the time to lead to the rapid spread of Christianity in spite of persecution, which is an undeniable fact confirmed by many extra-Biblical sources.

Written accounts of the resurrection were in circulation during the lifetime of those who witnessed it, which certainly would not have survived and been re-circulated for thousands of years had those witnesses refuted it. In fact, there are in existence today more than 24,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, dating back to as early as 25 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Compare this to just eight surviving ancient manuscripts of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, the earliest having been penned 1300 years after his death… yet those like Friedrich Neitzsche who have been the biggest critics of the historical accuracy of the Bible have revered Thucydides as a model historian.

Of course, a true Skeptic is not going to believe in the accuracy of Thucydides any more than in the Bible, but from an evidential standpoint, an honest jury has to side with the Bible. The biggest evidence, though, as I wrote recently regarding evolution, is all around you. Psalm 19 says “the heavens declare the glory of God”, and Paul writes in Romans that God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly revealed to all men in His creation, so that each of us is without excuse.

If the world around us is not of divine origin, then why do we have order rather than chaos? Why are you in pain about the torture of others if their lives do not have worth? And why would their lives (or yours, for that matter) have any worth if Someone greater than ourselves did not assign them that worth?

The answer to all those questions is that you are created in God’s image, with an understanding of right & wrong as He defines it. Whether or not you choose to accept that Truth is up to you.

But it IS True.

morsecOde’s reply:

honeyandlocusts wrote:
Are you not able to find joy and adventure just living each day?

Certainly. But I’m also realistic. I imagine that, when dealing with ‘living forever’, eventually I will be bored with it. Again, ‘eventually’ may take billions and billions of years. But that is barely any time when dealing with forever.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
God does not “send” people to Hell.

According to your scriptures, did your god create hell? Did he create the devil? Did he make the rules that causes people to go to hell?

If the answer is yes, then he sends people to hell.

If I build a torture dungeon in my basement, hire someone to run it, and put down rules that if my children break they have to be sent down there, then while I may never personally bring anyone down into the torture center, I have sent them there.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
Separation from God IS the torture!

Then in what way is it different from my life now? I don’t believe in a god, I don’t act as if there is one, so I am, essentially, ’separated from god’. And I love my life.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
There is only one sin for which there is infinite punishment, and that is the sin of rejecting Christ Jesus as Lord.

So, thought crime is what sends people to hell? Sorry, but that’s horrible.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
God is the Creator of the world, and He gets to make the rules.

Sorry, but this is immoral. It also suggests that you, and Christians like you, don’t really have a morality. You have a proto-morality. You just listen to what someone else says because, you think, they are more powerful than you.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
If there is no God, then on what grounds do you base your concept of morality?

Evidence, logic, and empathy. Two parts rationality with a dash of irrationality. :)

honeyandlocusts wrote:
But as I’ve shown above, that is NOT the picture that Scripture gives us of our God!

I’m sure it’s not. But, if you’re dealing with an omnipotent deity, then that is what the picture is. If you create and are responsible for the existence of everything, then you are responsible for everything.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
how is that anything BUT just?

Because you’re basing punishment or reward on an entirely arbitrary point of belief. If you have two people who live exactly the same lives, but one believes and one doesn’t, the one who doesn’t is sent to hell.

How is that anything but UNJUST?

honeyandlocusts wrote:
In Heaven, the Bible says that God will wipe every tear, and there will be no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain

Which, as I said, will make me no longer myself. So some other person who is somewhat like me gets to live in heaven. But that person is not me, because I would be horrified by the condition of the others who aren’t there. Why should it be incentive for me if it won’t be me who is there?

honeyandlocusts wrote:
He was seen after his crucifixion by over 500 people

So you have documentation from all those 500? Personal recordings from each of them? Or even a list of names?

honeyandlocusts wrote:
Paul writes in Romans that God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly revealed to all men in His creation, so that each of us is without excuse.

Well, Paul is wrong. He may have believed what he wrote, but it seems to me a simple loophole to make it so Christians don’t feel bad that their fellow humans are going to some sort of punishment that, I think, everyone can see is unjust.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
then why do we have order rather than chaos?

We don’t, really. We have spots of temporary order amongst the chaos.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
Their testimony was “believable” enough at the time to lead to the rapid spread of Christianity in spite of persecution

So should we believe the Mormons too? They have testimony, it has rapidly spread in spite of persecution. Or should we only believe them if they survive 2000 years? Is it entirely a time issue?

honeyandlocusts wrote:
which certainly would not have survived and been re-circulated for thousands of years had those witnesses refuted it.

Why not? My experience with many different believers in many different religions is that, as a rule, they pay no attention to the people who refute their claims. Some do, but most do not.

Even martyrdom or persecution doesn’t provide any evidence for the truth of the claims. If it did, then Muslims would have the truth. And the truth believers in Jonestown. And the Heaven’s Gate cult. And the Branch Davidians.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
with an understanding of right & wrong as He defines it

Apparently not, as I disagree with great swaths of it.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
But it IS True.

Sorry, but you still have presented no good evidence for that claim. You’re welcome to believe it though.

My response:

morsecode wrote:
I imagine that, when dealing with ‘living forever’, eventually I will be bored with it.

Then I am glad that Heaven’s creation is a result of God’s imagination and not yours! The only way that there can BE an eternal Heaven is to have an eternal God, with an infinite imagination. If you want to imagine there’s no Heaven (as John Lennon said, it’s easy if you try; but then again he knows better now), that’s your prerogative, but Heaven and boredom cannot co-exist.

morsecode wrote:
According to your scriptures, did your god create hell? Did he create the devil? Did he make the rules that causes people to go to hell?

God did create Hell, but He did not create it for humans. It was created “for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41) who had rebelled against God. Humanity was created for Heaven, in a state of perfection… but we were also created with a free will. When Satan (who had already rebelled, and for whom Hell was created) presented Adam & Eve (who had not yet sinned, and were destined to spend an eternity with God) with a choice between whose truth claim they would believe (“You shall surely die” in Gen. 2:17 vs “You shall not surely die” in 3:4), they chose poorly.

God did not make rules that cause people to go to Hell. People are separated from God because He is Holy, and sin cannot exist in His presence, just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. It’s what the word “Holy” means: “to cut” or “separate”. The separation is the result of our sin, not of God’s rules.

You see, the precepts of the Bible are much more than “rules” that we are to follow; they are a revelation of God’s nature! We must have no other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3) because there ARE no other gods before Him (Is. 45:22). We must not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14) because God is faithful (Ps. 117:2, 1 Cor. 1:9). We must not lie (Ex 20:16) because God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).

These commandments are not rules which, once broken, condemn us to Hell. They are simply statements of fact about things which cannot be tolerated in God’s presence because they are contrary to His Holy nature. God knew that we were totally incapable of keeping those commandments. If He had given us those impossible laws in order to punish us when we broke them, then He would indeed be a horrible God (still just, but horribly so), as you claim, for we would all be destined for Hell, with no hope of redemption. Yet because He is a loving God, and does not wish for anyone to perish, He has provided for us another Way to enter into His presence. The law was not given to condemn us, but to show us our need for a Savior.

morsecode wrote:
If I build a torture dungeon in my basement, hire someone to run it, and put down rules that if my children break they have to be sent down there, then while I may never personally bring anyone down into the torture center, I have sent them there.

This is a straw man argument, as your depiction of a “torture dungeon” and a hired administrator are not accurate representations of the Biblical Hell and Satan. A more appropriate analogy would be this:

A father says to his children, “I love you very much. I have worked hard to provide you with this home and everything that you need. Whatever you need, just ask, and I will give it to you. I ask very little in return; just that you love me and live by my rules. Even when you break these rules, all you have to do is tell me you’re sorry and that you love me, and I will forgive you, because I love you. I know you won’t be perfect, I just want you to do your best… and I’ll even help you with your chores if you ask! However, if you refuse to follow the rules, act like you own the place, and never show any respect or sign of repentance, then you will not be allowed to live with me forever. I still love you, but there is a limit to my patience.”

morsecode wrote:
Then in what way is it different from my life now? I don’t believe in a god, I don’t act as if there is one, so I am, essentially, ’separated from god’.

There is a difference between being separated from the presence of God and total separation from God. All of us are currently separated from the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23), because we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. Still, God has not separated us from His creation, nor from His love (Rom. 8:35). You may choose not to believe in God, and try to live as if He is not there, but it is impossible to truly live separate from God. He created the ground you walk on, the food you eat, and the air you breathe. Your very existence is a testament to His Glory!

morsecode wrote:
So, thought crime is what sends people to hell?

I suppose that depends on whether you think that you reject God, or whether you are actively rejecting Him right now.

morsecode wrote:
It also suggests that you, and Christians like you, don’t really have a morality. You have a proto-morality. You just listen to what someone else says because, you think, they are more powerful than you.

In a word: Yes. This is exactly what it means. I do not claim to hold any morality other than that which God has laid out in His Word. You can call it “proto-morality” or whatever contemporary philosophical term you like, but if there is not a higher source of moral authority than Man, then we are left with the alternative that every man determines his own morality. If that is the case, then what is the point of morality anyway, and on what grounds does anyone have the right to condemn anyone else for anything? Which begs the question: Do you believe that morality is relative (each man determines for himself what is right or wrong) or absolute (some things are right or wrong for everyone)?

morsecode wrote:
Because you’re basing punishment or reward on an entirely arbitrary point of belief.

Again: Yes. This is what arbiters (judges) do. If I get caught stealing your car, any judge in America is going to put me in jail, because the law of this land says that Grand Larceny is a felony. I knew the law, and I knew the punishment for breaking the law, so I am held accountable by those who enforce the law. Of course, if you don’t press charges, then, according to the law, I am not guilty!

morsecode wrote:
If you have two people who live exactly the same lives, but one believes and one doesn’t, the one who doesn’t is sent to hell.

I hate to be crude, but if you have two people who take exactly the same walk, but one believes that the truck that is bearing down on them is really there and the other doesn’t, the one who doesn’t better hope the one who does yells, “Get out of the way!”

morsecode wrote:
Even martyrdom or persecution doesn’t provide any evidence for the truth of the claims… you still have presented no good evidence for that claim.

As I wrote before, that was by no means an exhaustive list of substantiating evidence, and was certainly inadequate for “proving” the veracity of Christianity, particularly in relation to other world religions and cults. But it definitely was not “no evidence”. I am happy to investigate or answer any specific claims or questions you may have regarding the authenticity or relevance of any sacred texts. I simply cannot list here every piece of evidence that points to the existence of a Creator and a resurrected Savior because there is too much of it, and others have already done so much more exhaustively than I.

morsecode wrote:
You’re welcome to believe it though.

As are you. I don’t know you, but something makes me think that, if we did know one another, we would probably be friends. Perhaps it is the way you write, the obvious passion with which you defend your views. Perhaps it is the way that you, like me, are horrified by the thought of the suffering of others. In fact, I would venture to say that, in a point-by-point comparison, your understanding of morality and mine would not differ on too many points. We just have a different source for that morality.

We disagree, but you are not my opponent. Perhaps you will never be persuaded that God is real, that His love for you is real, and that His righteous judgment is real, but that won’t keep me from hoping and praying that you will not wait too long to turn back to the Answer to every question you could ever ask.

The question of eternity is impossible to answer without an understanding of the nature of the everlasting God. He did not create Satan to torture you, and He did not create Hell to imprison you. What He has done is given us a choice regarding our eternal destination, but there are only two options. You will spend eternity in the Heavenly Father’s house (John 14:2), or you will spend it in the place reserved for the father of lies (John 8:44). The choice is yours whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

morsecOde’s reply:

honeyandlocusts wrote:
If you want to imagine there’s no Heaven

I don’t imagine there’s no heaven. I have seen no good evidence for it. There is a difference.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
Yet because He is a loving God, and does not wish for anyone to perish, He has provided for us another Way to enter into His presence.

And yet he hides it in ‘faith’.

I’m sorry, but if your god exists, and your god created me, then your god knows that I won’t accept things on faith. I only accept things on evidence.

According to your own scriptures, your god spent a good deal of time showing off quite a lot of evidence in the middle of the desert a few thousand years ago. And yet not now.

Seems to me that either those stories aren’t true, or your god is presenting an unfair double-standard.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
A more appropriate analogy would be this:

Actually, a more appropriate analogy would be we’re locked in a room, and my brother is telling me that an authoritarian figure exists outside the room, and here are his rules. And yet there’s no evidence of this person, we’re never contacted by that person, and if we leave the room we can never return to tell the other what is out there.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
I suppose that depends on whether you think that you reject God, or whether you are actively rejecting Him right now.

I don’t think ‘reject’ is the right word.

I don’t believe that any god exists.

However, there are certain gods that some people believe in that, if they existed, I would be fine with. Others I would consider disgusting monsters. But as I don’t believe in any, and see no good evidence for any, those are purely philosophical discussions.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
If that is the case, then what is the point of morality anyway,

It is the case. The point of morality is to live with other humans in peace, to avoid being killed and to live a life that is both satisfying and allows a good world for our families.

I believe morality is situational. Which means that acts can, generally speaking, be moral or immoral depending on the unique and individual situation.

honeyandlocusts wrote:
but one believes that the truck that is bearing down on them is really there and the other doesn’t, the one who doesn’t better hope the one who does yells, “Get out of the way!”

Assuming the truck actually exists.

A truck provides evidence. Your religious claims do not.

If the truck doesn’t exist, then the person yelling ‘get out of the way’ is a crazy person.

But I wouldn’t say that you were a crazy person. I just think you’re wrong and believe things for bad reasons.

My response:

morsec0de wrote:
And yet he hides it in ‘faith’.

On the contrary. The Way is anything but hidden. Jesus said, “I am the Way” (John 14:6). I don’t think it could be any plainer than that.

morsec0de wrote:
I’m sorry, but if your god exists, and your god created me, then your god knows that I won’t accept things on faith. I only accept things on evidence.

You know, for a guy whose favorite word seems to be “evidence”, you sure don’t seem to be at all willing to accept any evidence that does not conform to your “faith” in your own pre-supposition that God does not exist.

And don’t try to pretend that you don’t accept things on faith. You do it all the time. Every time you eat something, you exhibit faith that it will not poison you. Sure, this faith is based in logic, because you and others have experienced eating this same thing before, and it was not poisonous, and (in this country, anyway) food is almost always safe. Still, you are showing faith in the FDA that they have not allowed poisonous food to enter the market, and trust that those who have prepared the food (maybe even yourself) have not done anything to it to make it poisonous. There is a lot of evidence that your food is safe, but there is still an element of chance each time you take a bite… it could kill you. Your rational mind weighs the evidence, though, decides it is safe, and you eat. And hope you don’t choke.

Sorry for the morbid example, but then again, you’re the one who said the point was “to avoid being killed.”

A Christian’s faith is very much like this, only the risk of death is in unbelief. We weigh the evidence, trust in our own experiences and those of others who have been reliable in the past, and decide whether or not the likelihood that God is who He claims to be justifies our faith. There is always an element of faith in every decision you or I make. If you need 100% absolute physical, tangible PROOF of something before you believe it, then I’m sorry. Such a thing does not exist. But there is enough evidence available to come to a logical, rational conclusion.

Perhaps for some it is “blind” faith, but that’s not the way it should be. Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith”, describes several Old Testament saints whose faith was worthy of emulation; the type of faith by which we are called to live (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11) and which leads to saving Grace (Eph. 2:8). These saints did not rashly believe in some mysterious, unknowable god, but relied on evidence and experience of the past faithfulness of God, trusting that He would deliver them once more.

Don’t belittle my faith or anyone else’s by assuming that it is baseless.

morsec0de wrote:
According to your own scriptures, your god spent a good deal of time showing off quite a lot of evidence in the middle of the desert a few thousand years ago. And yet not now.

There’s that word again. Yes, God did reveal Himself in great and powerful ways during the Old Testament days and during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Archaeology and extra-Biblical written histories have supported the historical accuracy (or, at the very least, the plausibility) of the Biblical accounts of a global flood, the Israelite exodus from Egypt, and the three hour darkness that covered the entire world after the crucifixion, just to name a few.

But to say that He doesn’t reveal himself today? Are you kidding me? The more science progresses; the farther we are able to look out into the vastness of space; the closer we are able to look into the intricacies of atomic structures… God is revealing more and more of Himself every day! Not one piece of evidence has ever been recovered that is proof of species-to-species macroevolution that is claimed by Darwinian evolution, and taught almost exclusively in our schools as an explanation of the origin of life. NOT ONE! Yet this scientific research reveals such astounding complexity and order at every level, be it through the telescope (Psalm 19:1-4) or the microscope (Job 12:7-9), that the evidence is crying out to us that we have a Creator!

Why should we expect God to reveal himself to us today the same way He has done in the past, anyway? He’s already done it. He’s left a record that He has done it. There was a long period of time where God was “silent”, performing no grandiose, “pillar of fire” miracles, but He was every bit as active then as He is today, always revealing Himself to those who seek Him. He said that He was sending a Messiah, and He did. Jesus came, exactly when and how He’d been prophesied to come! He once again performed great, publicly visible miracles, of which we have record!

And guess what? He’s coming back again, exactly as He says He will! When He does, every eye (including yours) will see (Rev. 1:7), and you’ll finally have your “undeniable” evidence… but by then it will be too late. Every knee will bow, and every tongue (including yours) will declare that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). I can only pray that you would make that declaration before Christ takes away the opportunity to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) by making our faith become sight at His appearance.

morsec0de wrote:
Actually, a more appropriate analogy would be we’re locked in a room, and my brother is telling me that an authoritarian figure exists outside the room, and here are his rules. And yet there’s no evidence of this person, we’re never contacted by that person, and if we leave the room we can never return to tell the other what is out there.

Look: We can exchange analogies all day, but that would just descend into a circular argument, and I’m not interested in that. The point is, you can’t keep arguing against the merits of faith (in this case Christianity) by misrepresenting the source of that faith (the Bible). You seem like a smart guy. If you’re going to keep resorting to analogous paraphrases of the Bible, at least do yourself the favor of a comprehensive reading of the text. You don’t have to believe its “supernatural claims”, but someone as obviously fond of debate as you are can do better than these stories that are clearly not representative of the text which you attempt to refute.

However, if you do feel like you’re locked in a room, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” (Rev. 3:20) My friend, you have locked yourself in that room, and only you can open the door.

morsec0de wrote:
The point of morality is to live with other humans in peace, to avoid being killed and to live a life that is both satisfying and allows a good world for our families.

This sounds a lot like “survival of the fittest” to me. I do what’s best for me and mine, try to survive, and find some sort of happiness. I don’t want to be hypocritical, so if I am misrepresenting what you’re saying here, please correct me.

morsec0de wrote:
I believe morality is situational. Which means that acts can, generally speaking, be moral or immoral depending on the unique and individual situation.

Here we come to the problem with “survival of the fittest”. Suppose I have something you want, which would make your life more satisfying and help you to provide for your family. You kill me, take it, and live happily ever after. And for the sake of argument, let’s even assume I’m a terrible person, have killed others, and deserved to die. Now, to me, the dead guy, you killing me seems pretty immoral. But if morality is situational, what’s to stop you or someone else from deciding that my murder was justified, and therefore a moral act?

Now, this is obviously a very hypothetical situation, and from the little I know of you, your personal code of morality would prevent you from killing me (for which I am grateful). Still, I think it illustrates my point. There HAS to be an absolute standard of morality, or morality itself is meaningless. Either there is such a thing as right and wrong, with a source higher than Man, or it’s every man for himself. You can’t have it both ways.

morsec0de wrote:
I just think you’re wrong and believe things for bad reasons.

This is the point in this debate at which I must ask you this question: Why are you here? Not existentially (though that’s also a great question), but specifically. Why do you feel the need to keep coming onto this blog to continue this back-and-forth? What do you hope to accomplish?

If you are genuinely seeking an open-minded discussion or have specific questions for which you would like an answer, then I am perfectly happy to have that discussion and answer those questions with you. Dissenting thoughts and opinions are always welcome here if they are presented with the objective of discovering Truth.

However, if your purpose here is to bait me into a pointless, circular argument, with no intention of ever listening to or accepting reason and evidence that does not lead to the conclusion you desire, then I have no interest in continuing this discussion. That’s not debate; it’s a waste of time (Mt. 10:14). I’m sure circular reasoning and “trap” questions lure plenty of Christians into never-ending fights they cannot win, exposing bad theology and weak faith, but if that’s what you’re after, you’ve come to the wrong place.

If your goal in coming onto my blog is to persuade me that my faith and my God are not real, then, Friend, the burden of proof is on you, not me. I can tell you now, though, that attempting to do so would be a fruitless endeavor, for I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12), and am fully convinced that God is able to do what He has promised (Rom. 4:21).

I do hope and pray that you are genuinely seeking the Truth, for God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17). You are held captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col. 2:8), but the Truth can set you free (John 8:32)! However, if you continue to claim your own wisdom, rejecting the Truth of the Bible, eventually God will give you up to your own futile thinking (Rom. 1:18-32). I pray that your heart is not yet so hardened that you are incapable of recognizing Truth, and that God would call you to a redeeming knowledge of Him. He still loves you, and so do I.

As far as this conversation is concerned, though, if it is going to continue, you are going to have to present something constructive, rather than drive-by comments and criticisms that offer no alternative basis for truth.

Final Comment:

I don’t know if there will be more to this conversation or not. I sincerely hope that there will be. Any future comments will be copy/pasted into the body of this blog posting, so that it will be more accessible to those of you who have an interest in following along.

As always, it is my desire that this blog would inspire stimulating conversation and challenge myself and others to come to a deeper knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. I welcome and encourage your thoughts.

Two Words That Will Change Your Life

Allow me to indulge briefly in a short lesson in etymology. The following definition is courtesy of The Random House Dictionary, © 2009.

skeptic [skep-tik]noun

  1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual
  2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others
  3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion, esp. Christianity, or of important elements of it
  4. (initial capital letter) Philosophy
    a. a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible
    b. any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind
  5. Synonyms: Atheist, doubter
  6. Antonyms: believer

And now, the same word, as defined by Noah Webster in his 1828 Dictionary:

SCEP’TIC, n.

  1. One who doubts the truth and reality of any principle or system of principles or doctrines. In philosophy, a Pyrrhonist or follower of Pyrrho, the founder of a sect of sceptical philosophers, who maintained that no certain inferences can be drawn from the reports of the senses, and who therefore doubted of every thing.
  2. In theology, a person who doubts the existence and perfections of God, or the truth of revelation; one who disbelieves the divine original of the christian religion.

“Suffer not your faith to be shaken by the sophistries of sceptics.” ~ S. Clarke

This word is taken originally from the Latin scepticus, meaning “thoughtful, inquiring”, which in turn derived from the Greek skepsesthai, meaning “to consider, examine, observe”. Isn’t it interesting how a word’s definition changes — one might even say “evolves” — over time? I have always believed that words hold immense power, and my recent experiences with Dr. Del Tackett’s “Truth Project” have only furthered that belief.

Is it not revealing that Atheists now use the word “skeptical” to describe themselves? That a word that once meant “thoughtful” now means “doubt” or even disbelief in the very idea of Truth? This is quite a different connotation! The subtle implication is that those who are thoughtful and carefully examine or question the truthfulness of Scripture are Atheists, which just adds to the common perception that Christianity is “anti-intellect”. In reality, given the original meaning of the word, Christians ought to be the most skeptical in regards to what we hear and read. The writer of Acts praised the Bereans, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Ours is not a blind faith. Neither is it a faith which is beyond questioning. Rather, it is a faith that is strengthened when we examine the Sciptures to see if what the Bible says is true actually matches up with reality — because it absolutely DOES, and God’s Word will prove itself EVERY time!

There is one question, however, that is perhaps the most essential question that a human being could ever ask: WHAT IF?

What if there really is a God, and He really loves me? What if the Bible really is God’s Word? What if I really do have a Creator who holds me to a standard to which I can never attain? What if Jesus really died on the cross as penalty for my sins? What if He really rose from the dead?

The consequences of the answers to these questions are immense, both to believers and to the lost.

What if those of us who have believed in the name Jesus really and truly believed all those things, and evidenced them with our lives, rather than just our words? Would it change the way we live? I know that if I REALLY believed that when I am angry with someone or speak ill of him I am guilty of murder; that when I look at a woman who is not my wife and dwell on that thought for even a moment I have committed adultery; that nothing I “own” really belongs to me; that everyone I meet is an eternal being and will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell… my life would look radically different.

Christians, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

But if you are an Atheist — a true Skeptic — then you owe it to yourself to ask yourself the question of what if? You owe it to yourself to spend just a couple hours of your life investigating the Truth claims of Christianity. After all, what are a few hours in the context of eternity?

I urge you — whoever and wherever you are — to do whatever it takes to be in a Bible-believing and preaching local fellowship this Sunday morning, for this is the day set aside to celebrate our RISEN Savior’s victory over death! Without Easter, our faith is nothing, but the empty grave is everything! Do yourself the favor of allowing yourself to believe, if only for a couple hours, the possibility that the too-Good-to-be-true News of Christ really is True!

For those in Cookeville, I invite you to Stevens Street Baptist Church this Sunday, at 9:00 or 10:30 a.m. If you are skeptical, we invite your questions eagerly! You WILL find the Truth here! Come as you are, don’t worry about whether or not you know the words to the songs, and simply be open to the possibility that God will completely and radically change your life. You won’t regret it.

Thanks to SSBC member Dustin Rawls for putting this video together!