Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Don't let atheists steal your faith


John Loftus is at it again. On Debunking Christianity (3/10/2009 "Faith is Not An Acceptable Answer") He attacks the logic of faith by trying to isolate it from the reality of God.

Atheists will always try to deride and mock believers for having faith. They fear hell, and want very badly to destroy your faith so they will feel less damned (safety in numbers). So they work real hard and at making faith seem stupid. Do to that they reduce it from belief, trust and constancy (which is what it is) to some stupid silly ideal ike "believing things without evidence." That is not what faith is. When we look at a qualified source, such as Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology we see that faith is made up of three parts, it's really a very complex concept. These three parts of faith are:

(1) belief

We make a leap of faith in order to believe something. This need not be a blind idiotic leap into nothing, nor does it require no evidence. There's nothing in the definition of faith that requires this. Faith works perfectly well with a rational warrant. It is placing confidence in a proposition.

(2) Constancy

Think of the phrase "Keep the faith." Part of faith is being faithful. Meaning loyalty, desire to please, seeking, remaining stead fast, being true to one's convictions.

(3) Trust

give God the benefit of a doubt. Trust God. God promises certain things and we must believe that God will make good on them. This is all part of having faith. As you can see it's a much more complex concept than just "believing things without evidence."

After the belief part the assumption is that belief is conviction so the test is being true to one's convictions. The attitude one takes to faith is extremely important. The atheist want's to make you hate the idea of faith to be cynical and not appreciate what God has done for you.

Examine Loftus's method of doing this.

We’ve argued against the concept of faith many times before, but let me try again. I have argued that the Christian faith originated as a purely human religion completely accountable by humans acting in history without needing any divine agency at all. But setting that important discussion aside, faith is a cop out, especially when it comes to the number of things Christians must take on faith in order to believe. Let’s recount some of them.

Now what he does here at the outside is to separate faith from the context in which faith occurs so by doing this he's merely making it seem unreasonable because faith alone outside of its context has no meaning. The question he sets aside, is the most crucial question.

1) No reasonable answer can be given for why a triune God, who was perfect in love neither needing nor wanting anything, created in the first place. Grace and Love are non-answers, especially when we see the actual world that resulted. For Christians to say God wanted human creatures who freely love him is nonsense, for why did he want this at all? If love must be expressed then God needed to express his love and that implies a lack.

What does being Triune have to do with it? why would that prevent the answer any more than a unitary God? You can't really use that sort of argument. I come on that's not valid for argument. We can wonder about it, it's not bad to ask but it can't be used as an argument becasue it's nothing more than begging the question. Why should we pretend that we understand God's purposes?

nevertheless I think my soteriological drama idea comes as close as any to providing a good hypothetical as to why God created, and why he wants us to have faith. Essentially God sought free moral agents who would willingly choose the good. But to do that one must actually seek the good. This is so because unless one seeks and finds on own own there would be no internalizing of values of the good. The search is essential to promote the externalizing of values. Of course the ultimate objective is Love. God seeks creates to love and to love him in return. Then Lofus can say "but if he's Triune why must be create? he has himself to love." That's true but then why does an artist crate art? He has himself to admire and yet still chooses to create.

2) It’s hard enough to conceive of one person who is an eternally uncaused God, much less a Godhead composed of three eternally uncaused persons. There are some Christians who maintain the Father eternally created the Logos and the Spirit, while others claim that three persons in one Godhead is simply an eternally brute inexplicable fact. Why is that brute fact more reasonable to accept than accepting the brute fact of the laws of the universe, which is all that’s needed to produce the universe? There are social Trinitarians and anti-social Trinitarians. Both sides accuse the other side of abandoning the Chalcedon creed, either in the direction of tri-theism, or in the direction of unitarianism.

This is has noting to do with faith. It's just a side bar tirade. It also tickles me when atheists on a big thing about "the laws of physics." its' hilarious because they are merely proving the existence of God. they think they have this huge major argument that debunks the need for God and they are just nothing more than reinforcing the reason to believe in God. They cannot provide the basis of a ground of being for laws apart from a mind.

Lofuts gives us no reason why a triune God would be any less efficacious than a unitary God.

3) This triune Godhead is also conceived of as a timeless being who was somehow able to create the first moment of time. How a timeless being could actually do this is extremely problematic. For if his decision to create a first moment of time is an eternal one, then there could be no temporal gap between his decision to create the first moment of time and the actual creation of the first moment of time. If there was no temporal gap between God's eternal decision to create a first moment of time and the creation of that first moment, then his decision to create would alone be sufficient for a first moment of time to be created. God could not eternally decide to create at any future point since there is no future point for him to create. So if a timelessly eternal God decided to create at all then the universe is eternal and never had a first moment in time.

this is nothing more than major confusion over the nature of time. There can be no first moment and there is no problem with the beginning of time. What passes for a first moment is eternally infinitesimal. But that's all beside the point. The Berkeley concept makes the whole of time totally irrelevant and unimportant. time is nothing more than a conventional bench mark in the mind of God. Any sort of temporal paradox or problem is resolved instantly by this realization. All God need do is conceive of Time. All values time must be totally re-calibrated to understand this. So there is no temporal paradox that limits God any more than a fantasy or a stray day dream limits us.

4) This timelessly eternal triune God who parodoxically created time must now forever be subject to events in time. He cannot become timeless again, for to do so would destroy all that happened in time as if these events never happened at all. So although God somehow existed outside of time before creating the first moment of time he must now forever experience a sequence of events. Whereas before creation he was a timelessly existing being he is now going to forever experience a sequence of events that is never ending.

I have no idea what this has to do with faith. It has a lot more to do with misunderstanding about the nature of Time. What we have here is a pseudo problem. There is no problem with God being timeless or in time. God is not in a big room of timelessness, holding an envelope of space/time which he transcends. His problem is not going down into an envelope. It's not a problem because time is in god.. God is not in time. time is in God. time is a thought in the mind of God, as is the world. God is not in a big room filled with a timeless void, God is the big room. Everything is in the mind of God. There is no point with being in or out of time, becasue that's not even an issue. It's no different if we are present in our fantasies. Can't you fantasize about doing something? then do you think "O I can't do because then I return to the real world I'll change my fantasy."

From here it only gets worse.

In other words, he gets really confussed.

5) We are told that the Logos, the 2nd person of the trinity, became a man. No conception of this God-man in the flesh has yet been able to stand scrutiny.

what a stupid comment that is. What does it mean? I certainly have no trouble understanding how God could enter history as a man. I don't know what's wrong with John's imagination. I am right now in my mind on the beach in Costa Rica in 1971 the day I swan around the cove and came right up next to a huge ocean ship which I didn't even know was there. I am now back in my study. No problem. I don't need to expalin how I did it. I just imagined it.

How, for instance, can such a being be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over? All attempts to solve this problem have failed.

Because that doesn't mean half of him is God and half is man. It means his divine nature is truly divine and his human nature is truly human. Remember now the bible never divides Chrsit up by percentages. That's a human attempt to explain a concept.

6) But we’re not done, for we’re told this God-man atoned for the sins of man. No sense can be made of how the death of Jesus actually forgives sins. There is no relationship between punishment and forgiveness at all.

nothing more than theological ignorance. I tried to place this comment on DC but they wont publish my comments now. See my pages on Atonement where this is explained.

We forgive people who have not been punished and sometimes we won’t forgive people even after they've been punished. To say that in order to forgive someone they must first be punished does not describe forgiveness at all, anyway. It describes revenge. Revenge can never be a moral reason for acting and revenge has nothing to do with offering forgiveness. We don't even need for people to ask forgiveness in order to forgive them. Sometimes it's better for our mental health to forgive someone regardless of whether or not they're even sorry for what they've done.

It's a statement of solidarity. When we accept God's offer of solidarity it creates the ground of forgiveness. you can't be in solidarity with someone you have not forgiven. This totally and without ambiguity solves the problem of the atonement completely. it maks prefect sense, it totally defeats the atheist myth that it doesn't make sense, and it is embraced by both church fathers and modern theologians.

7) This God-man was a unique never-before-existing being who is described in the creeds as one unified person. Here an additional problem surfaces. Where is the human side of this God-man now (i.e. the human nature of Jesus)? Since this human side of the God-man was sinless he couldn’t be destroyed, nor could this human side of the God-man be separated from the divine side, for such a being was now one person according to the creeds. So theologians have concluded that the trinity includes an embodied Logos. Now we have a trinity with an embodied 2nd person in it. Picture this if you will!

Misunderstanding of the nature of incarnation. Jesus is not half man half God. There is no "human half" to be lost. There were two natures but they are not halves and they don't exist independently of each other. Such an argument is like saying if a man whose father was Japanese and his mothers was Eubangan, died, where would you bury the Japanese half? we all have different qualities and traits in our characters. These two elements made up a whole individual person. That person has been transfigured and thus transcends space/time.

8) Stepping forward a bit, sinners sent to hell retain their free will, since it’s argued they continue to rebel in hell, while the saints who enter heaven have their free will taken away to guarantee there will be no future rebellion in heaven. If free will is such a great gift why reward people by taking it away from them and punish people by having them retain it? That makes little sense to me.

no one says saints free will is taken away. Can John show us where that is in the Bible or a creed? I have never seen such an answer from any Christian source. This is also anther pseudo problem. One would think these guys would get tried of the same old dumb non starter arguments that we knock down time after time. But they are the mainstay of hate group atheism. It' amazing to me that rational well educated atheists like Lofuts will resort to this sort of pablam.

I’ve only touched on a few of the beliefs needed to make sense of Christianity. There are many others, and some Christians have different scenarios. But who in their right mind would embrace Christianity if he or she heard about them all when first being challenged to believe? Very few people. That’s what I think.

as you can see from my answers it doe not take much to destroy this kind of crap easily. These guys are just ignorant and blind. They don't' want answers. How many times has John heard the answers here? over and over just like all the other myriad atheists who are constantly ignoring the the answers which they get all the time. They say the same stuff over and over again. I never hear anything new, and they never acknowledge an answer.

But we’re not done yet. For there is the additional problem of the lack of evidence for these beliefs. Archaeology disconfirms the flood and Exodus stories. What we have are the claims of people who wrote the books that later were accepted into the Bible. Why should I believe what they wrote? Why should I believe that the sun stood still, or that a star pointed down to a specific place, or that a virgin gave birth, or that a man walked on the water just because of what a person in the superstitious past wrote? Even in the Bible itself we see how the people of that same era believed in the actions of gods and goddesses like Apollo, Zeus, Baal, Artemis, and others, which hardly anyone accepts today. So why do Christians accept one set of claims in the past but reject the others? The same evidence supports them all: Testimonies by superstitious people in the past.

Childish. this guy knows better. These are not seminal issues. Theya re not deal breakers. He's not even willing to take on the real targets. He hates the fudnies so deeply he's willing to waste his talent on third rate issues just to get a score and feel big. I find this pathetic.

Christians must defend too many beliefs, any one of which, if incorrect, would be fatal to their whole worldview. These beliefs are based upon the conclusions of historical evidence which is extremely problematic given the nature of that evidence and the nature of the superstitious pre-scientific people in the ancient past.

so very pathetic. All of this can be avoided so easily but just re framing the question with a bit of common sens and reading some theology.

In the mean time what has he actually said about faith? Nothing really. The whole thing wasn't about faith. But it is aimed at making one feel stupid for having faith while not even dealing with the concept of faith. John is a well educated and intelligent guy. He really should know better. He's wasting his talent on arguments that are the atheist equivolant of Institute for Creation Research. I do not say this to attack or hurt him. I consider John a friend and I say this as a friend: He's capable of being anther Eric Hoffer (who I considered to be pretty intelligent) and hes content to be the atheist Dwayne Gish.


A Hermit said...

"...give God the benefit of a doubt. Trust God. God promises certain things and we must believe that God will make good on them..."

Been there, done that, got nothing but confusion, fear, frustration, cognitive dissonance and guilt (for not having "enough" faith to overcome all of that.)

Why would I go back to that?

J.L. Hinman said...

I tried downloading firefox and I couldn't do it. All I got was error messages. So I guess firefox doesn't' exist does it?

firefox is a just a myth and it doesn't work. Because I tried it and it didn't work. the fact that millions of others find it working is just irrelevant.they are just hallucinating and making it up and playing games in their own minds.

A Hermit said...

"I tried downloading firefox and I couldn't do it. All I got was error messages. So I guess firefox doesn't' exist does it?"

Not the same at all. You're doing the same thing here that you dislike when atheists compare your faith to belief in Santa Claus...

J.L. Hinman said...

"I tried downloading firefox and I couldn't do it. All I got was error messages. So I guess firefox doesn't' exist does it?"

Not the same at all. You're doing the same thing here that you dislike when atheists compare your faith to belief in Santa Claus...

No, not at all. you really comprehension problems. I am saying that you did it wrong. Just I obviously didn't down correctly,you didn't trust God correctly.

Kristen said...

It seems to me that atheists believe all kinds of things that make less sense than Christian doctrines-- things about quantum theory, multiple universes, etc. The only difference is that most people (including myself) don't dismiss quantum theory just because it isn't intuitive and is hard to understand. So what's really unclear is why theology is not to be permitted complexity, when so many other disciplines can be as complex as they please without dispute!

J.L. Hinman said...

Good points Kristen. thanks

A Hermit said...

Joe says: "No, not at all. you really comprehension problems.

Just can't resist the cheap shots, can you?

"I am saying that you did it wrong. Just I obviously didn't down correctly,you didn't trust God correctly."

And how exactly does one "trust God correctly?" If there's some special procedure that I missed in thirty years of faithful living and prayer I'd really like you to point it out for me...

Kristen says:

"It seems to me that atheists believe all kinds of things that make less sense than Christian doctrines-- things about quantum theory, multiple universes, etc. The only difference is that most people (including myself) don't dismiss quantum theory just because it isn't intuitive and is hard to understand. So what's really unclear is why theology is not to be permitted complexity, when so many other disciplines can be as complex as they please without dispute!"

The difference, Kristen, is that while I accept all of those things (including the existence of God) as possibilities (with varying degrees of probability) I don't claim to have a personal relationship with any of them, I don't profess to have specially revealed knowledge of any of them, I don't assert them as undeniably true, as necessary for a healthy functioning society or beneficial to mental health and, unlike our friend Joe here, I don't belittle people who reject them as having "not trusted them correctly..." ;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

Just can't resist the cheap shots, can you?

If you can't see the distinction between quoting dueling surveys vs misreading a single table then ...

Kristen said...

Hermit, I wasn't talking about what you do or don't do. I was addressing Loftus' objections to Christian theology. He doesn't seem to be objecting to people claiming personal knowledge of these things-- he appears to object to them merely because he himself doesn't understand them.

Arizona Atheist said...

Faith is bullshit. Your claiming it's "complex" does nothing to solve your problem. Theists have no evidence for their beliefs and that's that. All "arguments" are simply "god of the gaps" arguments and nothing more. Due to the tremendous lack of proof/evidence for all theistic claims it's all based on "blind faith." So, yes Loftus is correct. Faith is nonsense.