Why does god hate amputees?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sorry for the delay in this post. I had a bout of food poisoning Friday and Saturday and was not in the mood, or position to compose much of anything. 😉 Here it is, Easter Sunday, and I am still feeling poorly, but a whole lot better than Friday or Saturday. The question was…

Why does god hate amputees? – There has never been a case of a single amputee growing back an arm or a leg, yet god (supposedly) sees fit to regularly cure cancer sufferers and the blind.

My first response would be to ask, how do you know that God never has healed an amputee? Once again, the burden of proof lies with the one making the claim, and the claim is that there has never been a single case of an amputee growing back an arm or leg. I would ask to see the pile of documentation that covers all the centuries since the birth of Christ, and all the locations of the world. It should be obvious that kind of detailed, complete, and verifiable documentation would be impossible. It would have required the interviewing of everyone having lived since the birth of Christ and their testimony recorded and stored for later research. I am not saying there has been such a case of healing; it could very well be there never has been a case of an amputee growing back a body part, but to make that claim, the evidence must be empirical and without required certification that claim is unsupported.

An example as to why this kind of claim is so difficult to prove, would be if I was to claim, “there is not a single North American Grizzly bear to be found in Washington State.” I would have to provide verifiable evidence showing every county, canyon, and creek was searched, every cave, underneath every overhang, the top of every mountain, and every few feet of every forested area. It would be quite a chore even if you were looking for an elephant or hippo. On the other hand, if I was to make the claim that you can find the Grizzly Bear in Washington State, I would only have to find one, and once I found a Grizzly my search would be over. One of the first places I would look, would be just south of Vancouver, where some Grizzly Bears have been found and tagged in the North West tip of Washington State. My point being: proving something never took place can be an impossible task, and the claim that Jesus never healed an amputee is one of those tasks. Nor do I make that point to belittle the question; I think it is important to be able to respond thoughtfully to this question because there is a very popular atheist web site with the same title whywontgodhealamputees.com and addresses this question in great detail.

Another problem with this question and claim is that God is under some kind of obligation to heal every ailment of human suffering. Lets follow this to its logical conclusion. If God was to start healing amputees, no doubt we would acquire quite a few converts at first, but then the question could be asked, why won’t God heal those with heart disease? OK, so then God heals all those with heart disease. How about those with strokes, diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s etc. When might the list of why won’t God heal… end? It would end when God healed all diseases. But would it really end there? No, a new line of questions would begin. Why won’t God heal my son who was struck by a car? My daughter who was raped and murdered? My wife who suffers from depression? The questions would continue until the gift of free will was completely removed.

Has God drawn the line at healing cancer and blindness? I don’t know, but I do know that He has the whole picture of the human endeavor, and knows what is best for us. How many of us, as parents, have taken in our young child to the doctor for a shot? All the child understands is the suffering; they are unable to see, let alone understand, that the vaccination will keep them from greater harm in the long run. As parents we see, and even feel, their suffering, no greater empathy a human has than a parent for a child, yet despite their cries, tears, pleas, we allow them to suffer. Is it possible God has similar reasons?

I can remember when my children were very young, I would sit them in my lap near the wood stove on a winters day. I would hold their hand out toward the stove repeating the word “Hot.” I would move their tiny hand closer to the wood stove, till they began to feel the heat, and then closer still, till they began to pull away because the temperature became uncomfortable. They would always look at me with concern and questioning, but they would understand after that, if they touched or came near to the wood stove it would burn them. There was a consequence for their behavior. Should they decide to touch the wood stove, they would be burned and realize their action had a consequence.

All children grow up learning about consequences, but if a parent intervenes too often you end up with a spoiled, ill-natured child. If God healed all diseases, accidents, and halted all misbehavior that caused harm in our world, we would become emotionally, physically, spiritually corrupt beyond anything we have ever seen. To liken us to a spoiled child that has no consequence for poor choices would be a vast understatement. As believers, what Paul says in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” certainly has meaning to us, but to an unbeliever their focus is on the moment, not the eternal.

Another way to respond to such a question would be to ask them if they are really asking why God does not do big, public, headline, CNN news miracles that everyone can see and can be verified. This would be a more honest question, rather than focusing on a small subset of possible healing’s, which seems to be the tone of the question. If they admit that is the question, then you can continue with the same response outlined above. A response of, “Absence of evidence, does not mean evidence of absence.” would be appropriate to add in. For example, if you toss me a ball and I choose not to catch it, it does not necessarily follow I am incapable of catching the ball. We can appreciate the concept of eternity with Christ, compared to a few short years, but the non-Christian has no hope or appreciation for such a promise. I think the majority of people that would ask this question, really don’t even believe in God, and until they get to a point where reasons for belief out weigh reasons not to, addressing such a specific topic would be pointless.

Finally, I don’t think this piece could be complete with out my mentioning the view of Cessationism, which is the view that the gifts of the Spirit ceased being practiced, or more accurately were not available, after the early church. Those that hold to this view, believe that healings were only available to the early church because those miraculous gifts were needed to form a strong foundation and today are very rare.

I personally don’t hold to this view, but know some apologists who do. I am often skeptical to hear of miraculous healings, but am looking forward to reading a book by Craig Keener, a New Testament Scholar, who wrote a book titled Miracles. It comes highly recommended (by J.P. Moorland, a current apologetic powerhouse) and the consensus is that God is still active and we do have evidence of miracles today.
I will also recommend a couple other links that address this question, if you’re inclined to read or listen a bit more on the topic.
http://www.gotquestions.org/God-heal-amputees.html
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cFhBhdxfWo

Jesus is responsible for…

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Historians estimate the total number of people executed in the name of Jesus is as high as 15 million (mostly Jews, “witches” and pagans). How does it feel knowing that Jesus is responsible for 3 times as many deaths as Hitler?

So often when we are hit with a statement like the one above, which is quickly followed by a question that presumes what they just said was truth, we are left speechless. I certainly have found myself in that kind of situation over the years since I work in a educational field, an environment not known to be conservative or religious in thoughts and beliefs.

Ever hear of the term ‘chaff’ in a conversation about aircraft combat? Chaff was first used in the 1930’s when radar was first being developed to spot enemy aircraft. Simply put, chaff is thousands of aluminum strips that are cut to 1/2 the wave length of the enemy radar systems, which result in the radar signals bouncing back and making it difficult, if not impossible, for radar operators to distinguish between aircraft and the chaff. During World War II, Lancaster’s and other aircraft would drop chaff to confuse enemy radar operators and allow large formations of bombers to arrive over their target with little or no enemy interference. The Royal Air Force, (RAF), Bomber Command in particular had success using chaff in night raids over Hamburg, Germany. Nowadays, chaff is used to break the lock enemy radar guided missiles have on fighters planes and other aircraft. Chaff can confuse or overwhelm missile systems so that the missile will not know what target to pursue, or simply explode within or near the chaff cloud.

In responding to a question or statement like the one above, one of our first reactions should be to ask what their source of information was. Be specific; ask them to name the historians, or name the book, magazine, or newspaper, where they read those numbers. You don’t need to be rude or angry about it, just ask them politely where you can find that information. So often people toss out statements that supposedly support their opinion, but they are just like chaff out the rear end of a fighter jet under missile attack. Nothing substantial, but just a diversion to what is really being stated. Everyone does it, even Christians, and if someone would just pause and reply back with a question, asking where they read or heard that information, quite often people are just repeating something they heard and actually have no idea how accurate or truthful the information is. They just repeat it because they have heard others repeat it, or it just sounded reasonable and they never gave it much consideration.

I looked at the above statement like this, the missile would be truth, and the chaff would be unsubstantiated statements or accusing questions that would steer truth away from striking at the heart of the lie. In this case, the lie is holding Jesus responsible for the death of millions. Just as important though, is to understand that they made a claim and it is their responsibility to back it up. They have to support the claim that as many as 15 million Jews, witches and pagans were executed in the name of Jesus. How do they know this? What evidence do they have? It is important to pay attention to the statements that people make about Christianity and ask them for their sources. More often than not, they will just be repeating some misinformation that nine out of ten people assume is true, and then it works its way around secular circles, much like a cold or flu will be passed at school.

Example of chaff in the above statement.
-Jesus is worse than Hitler.
-Jesus is responsible for people being executed.
-Fifteen million Jews, witches, and pagans killed because of Jesus.
-How can you worship a mass murder?
-Don’t you feel guilty for the crusades?
-Don’t you feel guilty for the Salem Witch trials?
-Christians have killed 3 times as many people as Hitler.

The list can go on, but you get the gist of the implications of such a statement. Jesus is no better than Hitler, if not worse, and those that follow him are really no better than the Nazi’s that followed Hitler’s orders.

Christopher Hitchens who is the author of God Is Not Great, says much the same thing. He points out how religion has caused violence in areas such as Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, and Baghdad. Timothy Keller in The Reason for God, says Hitchens’ point is fair, but he goes further to point out the cultures that have rejected God which have killed millions. For example, Communist Russia, Chinese, and Cambodian secular governments have all rejected God, but are guilty of the slaughter of millions of their own people. William Lane Craig touches this issue in Hard Questions Real Answers. He talks about the eight major Crusades between 1096 and 1274 that were to wrest the Holy Land from Islamic control. He pointed out how these Crusades resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and were organized by men with nothing but greed in their hearts for power, money, and influence. Craig went on to write, “But the most heinous of these expeditions was the so-called Children’s Crusade of 1212. In this ludicrous mission, thousands of children were recruited to form an army to liberate the Holy Land. But the children never got any farther than Marseille, France. There they were kidnapped and sold into slavery by the leaders of the Crusade.”

Leading apologists recognize and acknowledge the evils men have done to fellow men in the name of religion. Anyone who spends just a little bit of time researching the cost of human life in the name of religion cannot deny it, but to place that cost on Jesus is absurd. One only has to read the New Testament to see that was not what Christ was teaching. Greg Koukl addressed a similar statement to the one I posted above in his book Tactics, “More wars have been fought and more blood has been shed in the name of God than any other cause. Religion is the greatest source of evil in the world.” Koukl points out that oppression, slaughter, and mayhem are not religious duties for Christians, consequently violence done in the name of Jesus cannot be blamed on him. He also writes, “Grab an older copy of the Guinness Book of World Records…You’ll find that carnage of unimaginable proportions resulted not from religion, but from institutionalized atheism: over 66 million wiped out under Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev; between 32 and 61 million Chinese killed under Communist regimes since 1949; one third of the eight million Khmers – 2.7 million people – were killed between 1975 and 1979 under the communist Khmer Rouge.”

In 1992, Salem dedicated a Memorial Park in honor of those died in the Salem Witch Trials. Those killed in the trials did not number in the millions, thousands, or even hundreds. Including those who died in prison with those who were executed, you have 25 to 30 people.

How many died in the Crusades? I have seen atheists that put the numbers from five hundred thousand to as high as two million. Other more conservative estimates range from one hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand killed. I assume the reference to Jews and Pagans in the above statement would be in reference to the Crusades. I could not find any reference by anyone, historian or otherwise, that goes as high as fifteen, or even ten, million. Maybe they are out there, but to place them in the range of credible would be ludicrous.

Finally, I should point out that this is not a straw man argument, that is, I did not just pick a number and make a statement that I could easily refute. The statement this piece addresses, and all the other questions I choose, can be found on multiple atheist web sites with a host of other questions that non-believers suggest Christians should be asked. It serves no purpose for us, as Christians, to refute statements that non-believers do NOT hold. That is akin to a common mistake teachers make when, after a lesson, they ask some questions to make sure the students understand what was taught. Some teachers just call on those who raise their hands, and those who raise their hands know the answers, or were at least listening to the lesson. Teachers who form such a habit receive a false confirmation that the lesson was successful. Apologists should look for real questions that are being asked by non-believers, not make up questions they feel skeptics have.

“The greatest evil has not come from people zealous for God. It has resulted when people are convinced there is no God they must answer to.” – Greg Koukl.

Reliability of the New Testament

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I came across this picture/poster on the Richard Dawkins Foundation page for Reason and Science.

Last count when I looked earlier this week, it had over sixteen thousand likes and over ten thousand shares on Facebook. The misinformation printed on this picture and its wide acceptance demonstrates not only the gullibility of a culture, but a desire to discredit Christianity that moves beyond skepticism and into a wartime disinformation.

KingJames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many untrue and unsubstantiated statements within the above poster, I was not sure where to begin, but due to my desire to keep my posts short, I will just focus on the reliability of our New Testament in terms of witnesses, number of copies, and dates of copies.

Ignatius, (AD 35-117), was a student/disciple of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John. Ignatius wrote at least three letters that have been preserved. Jim Wallace, in Cold-Case Christianity, reviewed some of Ignatius’ letters and listed the dozens of conclusions from those letters. Below I list only a few.
-Jesus was in the line of King David.
-He was, (and is), the Son of God.
-He was baptized by John the Baptist.
-He taught and had a ministry on earth.
-He spoke the words of God.
-He died on the cross.
-Jesus was resurrected.
-He had a physical resurrection body.

Polycarp, (AD 69-155), was a student/disciple of John, who is the author of the Gospel of John. Polycarp became the bishop of Smyrna in what we now call Turkey. Polycarp wrote a letter to the church in Phiippi, and history has documented this, in which he talked about Paul and the other apostles who he had met. The following conclusions can be made from his letters.
-Jesus was sinless.
-He taught the Sermon on the Mount.
-He suffered and died on a cross.
-His death on the cross saves us.
-We are saved by grace.
-Jesus was raised from the dead.
-Jesus is Lord.

As I did with Ignatius, I only listed a few.

Clement of Rome was taught by Paul, and he wrote a letter AD 80-140. According to Jim Wallace, “Clement quoted or alluded to seven New Testament books (Mark, Matthew or or John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians) as he penned his work.” From his work, which agrees with Ignatius and Polycarp, you can conclude the following.
-The prophets predicted the life and ministry of Jesus.
-Jesus provided His disciples with important instruction.
-He taught principles as described by Mark and Luke.
-He was humble and unassuming.
-He suffered and died for our salvation.
-He was resurrected from the dead.
-He is alive and reigning with God.

All of the above men had first hand and eyewitness testimony to the lives and teaching of the New Testament authors, all within the first century, not 400 years or later as the above poster suggests. History has recorded their correspondence, and this recorded correspondence confirms the writings and eyewitness testimony of the New Testament authors.

According to Norman Geisler, in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, we have nearly 5,700 hand written Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and more than 9000 in other languages such as Latin and Arabic. Of these nearly 15,000 documents, (some are complete accounts while others are partial books, pages, or fragments), the message of the New Testament is clear. In the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, we have a confirmed segment of John that is dated between AD 117-138. [Jim Merrill  pointed out my transition from New to Old Testament. I removed the mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls since they apply to the Old Testament. Thanks Jim! 🙂 ] In history, the next earliest surviving copies from the original document is Homer, with a 500 year gap. If you look at the number of copies that support ancient documents, again it is Homer with 643 compared to nearly 15,000 of the New Testament.

The statements in the above picture are absolute rubbish, but taken for ‘gospel’ truth by those who prefer to put Christianity in a negative light.

Finally, historical documentation is not limited to believers. Anyone who is familiar with biblical history has heard of Flavius Josephus, (ca. 37- ca. 100). He was a historian for the Roman emperor Domitian. Josephus wrote, “At this time [the time of Pilate] there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive, according he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”

Contrary to the statements in the above picture, the events in the New Testament are some of the most documented in history.

If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.
– Jewish Proverb

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.
– Mother Teresa

True and False Religions

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As I mentioned before, I have been looking at questions that various atheist sites have published. Some of them, actually many of them, are written with Christians in mind and distributed for the purpose of tripping them up and showing them how foolish it is to believe in God, let alone that Jesus is the son of God.

To answer the questions, “How can you tell false and true religions apart?”, and “Where do false religions come from?”, I want to share some insights by Greg Koukl. In an apologetics course, he goes into great detail explaining the different ways our culture views truth, and how it applies to morality and religions.

For example, if I told you I think Twix is the best tasting candy bar on the market, some of you might agree, but others might say they prefer Snickers, Milky Way, Butterfinger, or Three Musketeers. We all understand that the truth of the statement, “I think Twix is the best tasting candy bar on the market”, is a subjective truth. In other words, it is based on the subject, me, and it is my opinion. No one would have a problem with that because we all have different tastes, or opinions, on flavors, colors, etc. Now if I said, “The Twix candy bar is a cure for diabetes”, many of you would have an issue with that, and rightly so. Most, if not all, of you would ask, “How do you know it is a cure for diabetes?” or “What evidence do you have that Twix cures diabetes?” We would then discuss the problem, share our experience, and investigate the truth of the statement. The truth of that statement is objective, or an objective truth. The object is not ‘me’, but, if Twix is a cure for diabetes. Two ways to view truth, subjective or objective. One is more of an opinion, and the other is a true or false statement. Greg Koukl explained it this way: “Subjective Truth is always “neither true or false”, while objective truth is always “either true or false”. He compared subjective truths to ice cream, and objective truths to insulin. Simply put, subjective truths are like ice cream; it does not matter what others think. We all have our own opinions on ice cream, candy bars, movies, books, etc. If I said that Dryers Vanilla Caramel was delicious, once again, no one would have a problem with that. But objective truths are either true or false, it works or it does not work, so if I said that Dryers Vanilla Caramel would cure the common cold, we would look at that statement one of two ways. Dryers Vanilla Caramel ice cream would cure the common cold, or Dryers Vanilla Caramel would not cure the common cold. Once you understand the differences between subjective truth, (opinion), and objective truth, (true or false), then you can begin to see how our culture has applied subjective truth to morality and religions. Our culture views religions as subjective truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. You like Buddhism, I like Christianity, but it does not stop there; some take a little bit of each religion and create their own, just like mixing up different flavors of ice cream. In a small part, this answers the question of where some false religions come from. If you think about it from a subjective view, you can see why so many think it is absurd to say their religion is the ONLY correct religion. It would be as if I told you that chocolate ice cream should be banned, and only Dryers Vanilla Caramel should be sold in the stores. You would think I had gone nuts.

So looking back at the question, many don’t think there is such a thing as true or false religions, but simply a flavor that you prefer. Once you can convince someone that the question of religion is objective and not subjective, then you can deal with the actual question of true and false religions, but until they see it is objective, and not a subjective truth, your answers will not seem reasonable, or even sensible, to the non-Christian. I should add also, a key to finding true religions would be to look at their source of authority. Jesus Christ is our ultimate authority as revealed in the Bible, and our Bible is our final authority on areas of behavior, thoughts, and judgment for our Christian faith. The Bible is our guide to objective truths. Cults and other false religions will not allow the Bible to have the final say on various topics of human conduct and behavior. In Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias points out what makes Eastern religions so popular: “Eastern religions make it possible for young people to be religious without having an absolute God to answer to. They can see God as a deity who doesn’t put a fence around them, but allows them to roam free, without boundaries on their passions and desires.” He also says, “Eastern religions are much more in tune with popular media and the arts.”

Islam says Jesus was a great prophet, but not the son of God. Hindu’s think there are millions of gods, atheists don’t believe in any god, Buddhists think everything is god. Christianity says Jesus is the son of God and there is only one God. They all can’t be correct. Jesus is either the son of God or he is not the son of God. There is either no God, one God, or more than one God. They can’t all be correct, and you can’t take a little bit of each of those statements to create a fourth choice. How do you tell which one is correct? Investigate the truth claims of the various religions and research the evidence that supports them. You will find the evidence for the truth of Christianity is significant. I would recommend two books that were written by men who were former atheists, but then investigated Christianity for the purpose of debunking it. Lee Strobel’s, The Case for a Creator, and Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. Both would be a good start for someone just beginning their investigation. Two other books that I would recommend, but go into greater depth, are I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, and The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. I have read them all this past year, and each in their own way offer evidence for the skeptic or unbeliever.

Something to think about

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have been reading various atheists’ web site and blogs looking for comments and questions that challenge me personally.

In a book I just finished, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterson, he used the word sophistry and said it was one of the things he despises most. I was not sure of the meaning of sophistry, so I looked it up. Sophistry [sof-uh-stree]
1. a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
2. a false argument; sophism.

After looking it up, I realized it was the perfect word for something I had just read that was posted from a doctoral student who, in his words, “…is obsessed with the defense of atheism.” Here is what he wrote.

If God is omniscient, it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something. This entails that at one time [he was] in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn. But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God’s omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist.

I thought about this for a time, and on the surface it seems quite reasonable. After consulting with some other experienced apologists, I came to understand the difference between omniscient and experience and a different way to view experience.

First, being omniscient does not mean you have to have experienced something to ‘know’ or to understand it as the above paragraph implies. Not having learned something through experience is not a contradiction to his being omniscient. God has not experienced the flu, pregnancy, or a computer virus, but he knows and understands what they all are. An infinite God cannot learn, and to suggest he must, to be infinite, is illogical. There is a distinct difference between experience and omniscience. There are many things God cannot experience because he is omniscient, but God does not have to experience everything to be omniscient.

An example from a gentlemen who frequents the Reasonable Faith forums put it this way. Say you were walking to work one day, and near you a fellow was walking across the street as you were watching him. To your shock and dismay, he walked right into the path of a car which hit him. Your thought would be, “Oh no! That man was hit by a car!” His thought would be, “Oh no! I was hit by a car!” You both saw and experienced the same event, but from different perspectives, or different ‘indexicals’. An indexical I learned is a point of view someone, or some entity, might have to a particular event. Undoubtedly, you would run and see what you could do to help that man, but suppose after the commotion died down and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, an officer came up and asked you if you had knowledge of the accident. You explained you saw the whole thing, but the officer’s face changes to disappointment and says, “That is not what I am looking for.” He explains you did not know anything because you were not the one actually hit by the car. Most of us would be thinking this officer is a loon, and at that point we might be looking for his badge number so you could report him to his superior.

Another way to consider an indexical point of view might be to look at a midwife who has delivered hundreds of babies, but maybe she has not had a child of her own. Would she have the ‘experience’ of child birth? No, but certainly she has knowledge of it. God knows of learning and understands what it is, but has not experienced learning. Being the creator of human experience, how could he not fully understand what learning is?

 

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