Friday, March 27, 2009

Blind Faith

Christians are often accused of having blind faith. Punmesiter Bill Maher has said that Christianity stops people from thinking and in essence gives them blind faith. Here’s what he said on Larry King Live:

You know, I always love to go off on religion; I think it’s one of those most deleterious things ever to come down the pike in human history. I think it has caused more misery. I think it stops people from thinking. Just think of the wasted energy. What could be done if people would channel the energy that they waste towards silly, superstitious pursuits?[1]

Now I think Maher is involved in silly superstitious pursuits himself, because in reality nothing could be farther from the truth. Ultimately, what is blind and bigoted is the erection of an imaginary dichotomy between faith and reason.

Speaking to followers of Christ, you might recall that the Apostle Peter says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The Bible not only claims that it’s God Word and thus true, but God cannot lie or contradict that which corresponds to reality. Therefore, the Bible presupposes the validity of reason.

Not only so but biblical faith is never blind faith, but rather faith placed in history and evidence. Put another way, the Bible makes many factual claims about reality and offers reasons or evidences in support of such truth claims. For example, the apostle Paul sets forth a list of people who saw Jesus Christ alive again for forty days after His Death by crucifixion to remind the Corinthians that the resurrection was a testable and proven fact of history (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

In stark contrast to people like Bill Maher, the Bible promotes open-minded reasoning. Far from letting the facts lead whereever they may, Maher closes his mind to the possibly of supernaturalism and blindly places faith in philosophical naturalism, even when its tenets fly directly in the face of reason and evidence. He demonstrates a unique brand of idiosyncratic fundamentalism, because he begins with anti-supernatural bias and thus rejects God a priori. In place of reason and evidential substance, he traffics in rhetoric and emotional stereotypes as he did in Religulous.

Thankfully, God often uses evidence and sound reasoning, through the witness of reasonable Christians, to break through the blind faith of skeptics in order to turn them towards open-mined contemplation. Truly, the hearer can only fully rejoice in what the mind comprehends.

[1] Bill Maher, CNN: Larry King Live, January 28, 2004.

The New Village Atheists

Recently I was in China and, while there, I was talking to the Director of the Institute of World Religions, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and in many ways he’s informing key leaders within the Chinese government on how to relate to religion. I felt, quite frankly, that he was far more thoughtful in his conduct and remarks than the kinds of people we are now encountering. These people in the West we would refer to as The New Village Atheists.

Whether or not you support Barack Obama and his policies or his politics, I would say in like fashion that it’s hard not to be impressed by his forthrightness with respect to religious convictions. He says that “to say that men and women should not inject their personal morality into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.”[1] Now I would agree with that, but what he gives with one hand he takes with the other, because on the one hand he voices respect for religious convictions and personal morality, but with the other hand he substantially undermines the foundation on which they are grounded. I’ve mentioned this before, but in his “Call To Renewal” keynote address to religious leaders, Obama asks, the following questions, “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”[2]

While I applaud Obama’s injection of religious dialogue into public policy debates, I am obviously appalled by the manner in which he mischaracterizes and marginalizes the Bible in the process. Nowhere does the Bible suggest slavery is ok. Nor does the Bible suggest stoning your child is ok.

It is worth noting that Obama’s mischaracterizations are eerily similar to those voiced by President Bartlett in the once wildly popular television series The West Wing. In fact it sounds an awful lot like that he spent a great deal of his time listening to President Bartlett, and now it sounds like he’s parroting President Bartlett. Not only so, but his mischaracterizations are comparable to those now being voiced by a crass new breed of anti-theists who make similar charges, albeit in a far more strident and expanded fashion.

One of those is Christopher Hitchens, contributing editor to Vanity Fair. In God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he goes so far as to say that “the Bible contains a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride price and for indiscriminate massacre.”[3]

There is also Richard Dawkins who vacuously asserts that “a designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity, because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.” Thus, says Dawkins, “The whole argument turns on the familiar question, ‘Who made God?’”[4]

Not to be outdone, Bart Ehrman, who is in my neck of woods as Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, makes a plethora of accusations against the Bible and it’s authors. Ehrman deems the very manuscripts persevering the New Testament to be flawed, reasoning that we do not have the original autographs but possess only copies of copies centuries removed from the originals, which contain errors in “thousands of places” such that “there are more differences among our manuscripts than there were words in the New Testament.”[5] Thus, Ehrman concludes, “Just as human scribes had copied, and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. This was a human book from beginning to end.” [6] Thus to say as I have many times on the Bible Answer Man that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin is, according to Ehrman, just dead wrong.

Punmeister Bill Maher gets in on the act by effectively characterizing people who hold to the authority of Scripture as those who, for all intents and purposes, have lost their brains somewhere in the narthex of a church. A major reason why Christianity is so dangerous according to Maher is “it stops people from thinking.” [7] Displaying a breathtaking form of idiosyncratic fundamentalism from the left, Maher asserts that the Bible, “was not meant to be history. It was not meant to be literal. They were parables. People read it back then and read into it something that was not literal. We’re the dummies who read it literally.”[8]

Maher doesn’t have the foggiest notion of what it means to read the Bible literally. Christians don’t say that we read something in wooden literal sense, but we say that you read it in the sense in which it’s intended. The notion that the Bible is all parabolic displays an ignorant assessment of the most widely read book in the history of the human race. Just a cursory reading through the Bible shows that it is a rich treasury replete with all kinds of genres.

Unfortunately, Maher is still not done. The notion of an afterlife is just plain “dumb.” Says Maher, “Some human beings, whose brain was no better than theirs, told them he knew what happens when you die. And it’s pretty silly to believe what some other human tells you when he tells you he knows what happens when you die.”[9]

Obama, Hitchens, Dawkins, Ehrman, and Maher are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg and that’s the problem. Today you have professors, political sages, and public personalities increasingly raising doubts in the minds of millions regarding the validity of a biblical worldview. Left unchallenged, their smoke screens reek havoc on Christianity by stumbling seekers and galvanizing skeptics against “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

In an age in which internet fallacies travel half-way around the world before truth has had a chance to put it’s boots on, it is ever more crucial to know what you believe and why you believe it.

[1] Barack Obama Website, News and Speeches: Call to Renewal Keynote Address” ( Accessed March, 24, 2009.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007), 102.

[4] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 109.

[5] Bart. D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 10.

[6] Ibid., 12

[7] Bill Maher on CNN Larry King Live, January 28, 2004.

[8] Bill Maher on ABC, Politically Incorrect, January 24, 2002.

[9] Bill Maher on CNN Larry King Live, January 28, 2004

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Age Will We Be in Heaven?

Recently I’ve been reading through the prophets, specifically Isaiah. In Isaiah 35:5-6 it says, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the dead unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Isaiah here is very clearly depicting the final eschaton, the final state and what it will be like. This of course begs the question, will there be a resurrection in which we have babies and old people or will we be resurrected at the same age we died?

Answering this question does require a bit of sanctified speculation. First of all, when God created Adam and Eve in Eden, He created them with apparent age. Also, Jesus apparently died and resurrected at the prime of His physical development.

Furthermore, our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our twenties or thirties. Prior to that stage, the development of our bodies exceeds the devolution of our bodies. From this point on, the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of buildup, which eventually leads to physical death. With age, our muscles get shorter, our connective tissues degenerate, our hormone levels decline, our neurological functions break down. All of this is to say that if the blueprints for our gloried bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA. So it stands to reason that when a person dies in faith as an infant or in old age that they will be resurrected physical mature as God originally intended them to be.

Finally, one thing can be stated with complete certainty: In the resurrection, there will be no deformities. You will be the perfect you, and I will be the perfect me. Peter Kreeft provides a poignant portrayal of how the body, tarnished by the Fall into a life of constant sin terminated by death, will be utterly transformed in the resurrection:

The fall turned things upside down between soul and body. Before the Fall, the body was a transparent window, a totally malleable instrument, a perfectly obedient servant of the soul. The Resurrection restores this relationship. Once the perfected soul is perfectly subject to God, the perfected body can be perfectly subjected to the soul, for the soul’s authority over the body is a delegated and dependent authority…Soul will no longer be frustrated by a semi-independent, recalcitrant body…and body will be a bright ray of light from soul, not an opaque object; it will be more subject, less object, more truly mine, truly me. No more will I crave ec-static out-of-the-body experiences, for the higher flights of mystic ecstasy will be in this new body.[1]

We will then have a new body-soul unity for which we long. If we say we want to go to heaven, I think it is incumbent upon on us to know just what heaven will be like.

Who Made God?

None of the arguments forwarded by philosophical naturalism, which is the worldview that under girds evolution:

1. The universe is merely an illusion.

2. The universe sprang from nothing.

3. The universe eternally existed,

satisfactorily account for the existence of the universe. So logically we can turn only to the possibility that God created the heavens and the earth; but, if that’s the case, this is brings up another question that is asked over and over again. That question is “Who made God?”

Unlike the universe, which according to modern science had a beginning, God is infinite and eternal. That way an infinite eternal being, or God, can logically be demonstrated to be the uncaused first cause.

Furthermore, to suppose that because the universe had a cause, the cause must have had a cause, simply leads to a logical dead end. An infinite regression of finite causes does not answer the question of source; it merely make the effects more numerous.

Simple logic dictates that the universe is not merely an illusion — it did not spring out of nothing— and that it has not eternally existed. So the only philosophically plausible possibly that remains is that the universe was made by an unmade cause greater than itself.