Death by a Thousand Cuts

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I was talking with a friend at church not long ago and he shared with me his recent sleep study experience. Apparently, he has stopped breathing at night sometimes, and was tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual does not receive all the oxygen they need because of a blocked airway. It is fairly common for men over 40, especially those who are overweight, and the medical community believes that a large percent of men actually have this condition without knowing it.

I know a bit about this myself, having been diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago after my own sleep study. I was surprised to have had it, but the signs were there. Always tired, sweating at night, and my wife telling me that at times I would stop breathing. It surprised me, because I was not overweight, at least not in the sense we might picture someone being overweight. I was 6’2” tall and about 225lbs. I worked out on a regular basis, and granted, could have lost some weight, but I did not have ‘the gut’ some men tend to carry. My extra pounds tended to spread out, so looks were deceiving.

I was prescribed the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine and after about a year, my doc told me if I would lose about 20 pounds I might not have to use the machine at all. I did as he suggested, and now keep my weight around 205 pounds, and have no need for the machine.

My initial experience of using the CPAP machine was something I will not forget. The first few nights opened up a whole new world to me, better put, it placed me back in a world I had forgotten all about. I had not dreamed for years, and after the first few nights, I would wake up with memories of these vivid and colorful dreams. I cannot emphasize enough to you what a shock that was for me. As I aged into my forties, the weight I had gained over the years brought on the sleep apnea, but did so so slowly, that I never noticed when I stopped dreaming at night.

Over the months and years, I dreamed less and less, till the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, stage of sleep where we all dream, was nothing but a memory forgotten. The dreams I began to have again when using the CPAP machine were graphic, clear, and filled my mind when I first woke up in the morning. I would share them with my wife and think about them for hours. It had been so long since I dreamed, I had forgotten how enjoyable they were. Dreaming again, coupled with the fact that I was getting the sleep I needed, just heightened the euphoric feeling I had after I started using the machine.

As our children grow and experience the world, they are surrounded and inundated with secular media that undermines how they were raised. This daily secular dose that comes in every imaginable color, flavor, and texture. It is consumed by our children, friends, family, culture, and acts like the weight someone gains over the years, nudging them toward a sleep apnea condition.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, our children who are raised in Christian homes gain the weight of the secular world, till they no longer dwell on God, trust in the Bible, or even believe in God. This is also true of adults who once believed and followed Jesus, but over time the message of the world and its daily, soft, cottony, relaxing, peaceful dose of anti-God, anti-religion, anti-faith, much like a Charmin toilet paper commercial, erode even the most fervent Christian.

One example of the thousands we see and experience every day is the CoExist symbol on bumpers everywhere. If you look carefully, you will see several different versions of these. The message is quite simple, and very naive. No matter what you believe we should all get along. Each letter represents a belief system, or a system of thought that many use to guide their lives. Commonly seen in the Co-Exist symbol are the crescent and star for Islam, the pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, Star of David for Judaism, Karma Wheel for Buddhism, Ying and Yang symbol for Taoism, and finally the cross for Christianity.

Typically, those that have such a bumper sticker have not fully embraced any one of those systems, but more than likely, adopt a little bit here or a little bit there, so that they end up with their own belief system. You might hear someone say that all religions are basically the same, promoting love, kindness, and brotherly love for one another. The problem with this train of thought is the focus on similarities.

For example, if a man and woman are attracted to each other, they often find similarities in their interests, such as reading, hiking, or cooking. These similarities serve them well as they grow to know each other, but what will break a relationship is their differences. When two people are divorced, the courts often give the reason of irreconcilable differences. Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, gives another revealing example of the importance of difference by drawing two small circles on a board and telling the class they represent two pills. They talk for a moment how similar they are, but he points out it is the differences that matter. This becomes very apparent when he explains one is an aspirin and the other is arsenic.

Religions often have similarities, but it is the differences that make them incompatible, and to suggest naively that all religions can all just get along and be accepting of those differences is foolish. Some of these faiths have followers who believe the lives of everyone outside their faith hangs in the balance. You could liken it to someone who is going to drink poison, and we are told to be tolerant and accepting of their right to do so. Which of us would sit silently as those around us consumed poison?

Not long ago, a former student of mine posted on Facebook, “It doesn’t matter people, Christian Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, it really doesn’t matter as long as you love.” Her sentiment we can all understand. Matthew spells it out rather plainly. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is important, but would an atheist who loves make it to heaven, a place he does not even believe in?

Some might say that ‘Coexist’ is just a bumper sticker with a positive message about tolerance; what harm could that possibly have to our culture? For starters, the message is not pointed at cultures, but religions, and how they should be accepting of one another, all the while ignoring core, incompatible differences.

The death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, are just a few hot topics that religions have very clear opinions on, but they are told to be tolerant and not force their views on others. Tell someone who is active in the pro-life abortion issue to accept Roe v. Wade and see how silent they will be. Tell gay activists to be tolerant of laws that discriminate against them, and listen to how accepting they sound, or better yet, have gay activists try protesting for gay rights in Iran to see what intolerance is.

Deep are the differences in religions, and for those active in their faith, it is often an eternal life or eternal death that hangs in the balance. To expect them to be accepting of other faiths, and be tolerant when lives hang in the balance, is absurd.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in one God. Hindu’s believe in thousands of gods. Buddhists believe we are God. Atheists believe there is no God. They can’t all be right, and if they all can’t be right, then those who feel they have the truth understandably want to share it with others. The world would rather have us remain silent about our faith. The world wants us to consider our religion a private and personal affair, and to keep our noses in our own business.

Ever wonder/consider how time and culture has eroded our reasons for celebrating certain holidays? A Roman priest executed in Rome for his Christian faith. After that things get pretty fuzzy, and no one knows for sure how Valentines Day morphed into the current money making holiday we now have. Santa Claus in Christmas? He is harmless. Easter Bunny for Easter? Makes Easter fun for the kids, but when they out grow the Easter Bunny, make sure to call it Spring Break, so as not to offend those that want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The world can make anything look good, no matter what it is used for. The world can make toilet paper look good, and the world can steal your faith so slowly, you will never know it happened. These changes don’t happen over night. A paper cut is irritating, but a thousand cuts aimed at destroying religion will cause death as sure as a shot through the head.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Doubt

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Doubt. If Christian is honest, that is something we all have had in our Christian walk. Despite my readings in the past couple years on apologetics, which does not mean apologizing for our faith, but defending our faith, doubt still creeps in.

William Lane Craig shares a story in his book, Hard Questions, Real Answers about a student who came up to him after class one day and said, “How come everything you say confirms what my pastor taught?” Somewhat taken aback by this comment Dr. Craig replied, “Why shouldn’t it?” The questioning student replied, “Well, all the other professors in my department challenge my faith.” Craig replied, “Look, I don’t want to challenge your faith; I want to challenge your thinking. But I want to build up your faith.” 1

That is a significant insight into a teacher’s responsibility that I have been guilty of over looking at times. Having taught Jr. High for many years, I have enjoyed numerous meaningful conversations with students about a wide variety of topics. From politics to puberty, I have had opportunities to share my thoughts and beliefs with my students, which often were counter to what the world was teaching them.

As a young Christian, I can remember hearing that doubt is a good thing, it will strengthen your faith. Made sense to me at the time, but I have come to realize that doubt is not a good thing and it is something we need to struggle against.  James 1:6 says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Certainly Thomas had doubts and Jesus told him to stop doubting. John 20:27, “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” When believers have doubts they need to share them with others and seek answers, this goes double for our youth in public schools or college who are engaged daily with the real world and its counter culture that undermines everything they are taught to believe in church. Those who instruct our youth need to be especially vigilant when occupied with young believers. Teachers need to be careful about raising questions in the form of instruction, but to always present solutions that will employ their minds, and strengthen their faith.

How does someone build their faith? If you define faith as Peter Boghossian, does it is not possible. He defines faith as belief without evidence. Or specifically as, “Pretending to know things you don’t know.” 2

Some Christians view faith as what you have when you don’t have evidence. You just ‘choose’ to believe even if you don’t have reasons, but faith is built by evidence, not the lack of it. As you learn more about the historicity, (historical evidence), of Christ and how testimony outside the Gospels add evidence to the person of Christ, your knowledge grows along with your faith. As archeology supports the historical record of scripture your knowledge increases along with your faith. John Lennox put it this way, “Indeed, faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence.” 3

Just the other day my wife and I viewed a DVD Film by John Christy titled, “My Week in Atheism”. I plan on watching it again and taking notes because many of the topics in the film raised questions that Christians might struggle with. The film is about two friends, one an atheist activist, (David Smalley), and the other a Christian apologist, (John Christy). Despite their opposite world views, the two of them have maintained a close friendship.

The movie explores both world views and attempts, (successfully I believe), to give the viewer a greater understanding of both the Christian and the atheist world views. Even more importantly, why they believe what they believe, and why their world views spill over into politics and create such tension between many atheists and Christians. This film is not about politics, but about moving beyond the rhetoric both sides often offer.

During one session, David asked the question about how an all powerful and loving God would allow a three year old girl to suffer a lengthy illness and then die of cancer. He asked this question because he knew a three year old girl who that actually happened to. In our own church, we have had families suffer such losses, or had children born with severe disabilities. In recent years, at least two families have lost both parents in the prime of their life. Parents who, on all accounts, were living for the Lord and faithful to Christ. For me personally, with my youngest daughter dealing with scoliosis and possibly facing surgery, asking God why and desiring an answer has now become personal.

The suffering we experience in this world is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to the Christian World view. Everyone can agree, if God was all knowing, then he would be aware of the suffering in our world. If God were all powerful, then he would be able to stop the suffering and evil that takes place in our world. If God was all loving, then he would want to do something about the evil he knows about, and is able to stop. Yet, evil and suffering exists in our world, so some conclude an all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God cannot exist. Many use this argument to claim, the God of the Bible does not exist. Philosophers and apologists know this as the ‘problem of evil’.

When addressing the problem of evil, it is important to recognize two difficulties. First is the emotional problem of evil, and the second is the intellectual problem of evil.

When someone has experienced a great loss, or is suffering in some way that causes them emotional and even physical stress, addressing the problem of evil from philosophical or intellectual direction often does more harm than good. It is in our nature, (granted some more than others), to physically console or embrace those who suffer. Many times words are not even exchanged, but just a physical closeness and willingness to share in the suffering, express empathy, is all that one can offer, and often, that is all that the one suffering would desire.

At a time of great loss or suffering, offering trite comments like, “God understands”, or “His ways are mysterious”, or “It is part of his plan we may never understand” do little or nothing to alleviate the pain, even when the person offering such condolences is deeply sincere. They are mistakenly offering an intellectual solution when none is asked for. The time to address the intellectual problem of evil is never when the loss is still causing emotional turmoil.

Often the person who has suffered the loss will, on their own time, bring up the problem of evil and share questions, doubts, frustration, and anger at God, with their close friends or family. It is at that time, friends can discuss the moral dilemma and possibility come to some kind of answer.

After hearing of the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as an alcoholic have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before that operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.” 4

If the aim of someone is to show that God and evil in the world cannot exist together, then the objector of God has to show that God does not have any moral reasons for permitting the evil we experience. Dinesh D’Souza shared this, “Carl Sagan helpfully suggests that in order to dispel all doubts about His existence, ‘God could have engraved the Ten Commandments on the moon.’ Pascal supplies a plausible reason for that he calls the hiddenness of God. Perhaps, he writes, God wants to hide Himself from those who have no desire to encounter Him while revealing Himself to those whose hearts are open to Him. If God were to declare Himself beyond our ability to reject Him, then He would be forcing Himself on us.” 5

Resources:

  1. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
  2. Boghossian, Peter. A Manual For Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print
  3. Lennox, John. God’s Undertaker. Oxford: Lion Books, 2009. Print
  4. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
  5. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print

Skeptical Claims about Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I have been working through a book titled, ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ by Peter Boghossian. In it he wrote, “Gary Habermas, for example, exemplifies this cognitive malady. Habermas alleges to believe-and I think he actually does believe-that there’s sufficient evidence to warrant belief in an historical Jesus, and the miracles attributed to him, and that Jesus rose from the dead. Yet when confronted by basic, rudimentary objections, (people lied, someone ransacked the tomb, the witnesses were unreliable), he takes the most remote logical possibility and turns that into not just a probability but an actuality.” 1

If you have not heard of Gary Habermas, he is a Christian historian, philosopher, apologist, and author of several books about the resurrection of Jesus, including, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Boghossian mentioned three, as he called them, basic, rudimentary objections that I will briefly take a look at. If someone was to be skeptical about the resurrection of Jesus, three simple objections would include, people lied, the tomb was ransacked, and the witnesses were unreliable.

Let’s look at the people surrounding the death of Christ and what motives they might have for lying about his death. We could categorize those surrounding the resurrection in three groups. The Romans, the Jews, and the believers.

Romans
What would the Romans have to gain from lying about the death of Christ? Certainly not the Roman guards. The penalty for losing a prisoner was not write up, a dock in pay, or even the fear of being fired, but death. Besides, the guards were posted because the Jews warned the Romans that the disciples might try to steal the body and make claims of resurrection. (Matthew 27:62-66)

The Romans hated the Jews, and as for the followers of Christ, they were considered nothing more than a cult. Tactus, a Roman historian, wrote concerning the punishments of Christians by Nero, “Suppressed for a time, the deadly superstition erupted again, not only in Judea, the origin of this evil, but also in the city of [Rome], where all things horrible and shameful from every-where come together and become popular… They were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to death by dogs; or they were crucified and when the day ended they were burned as torches.” 2

What possible gain could the Romans find by lying about Christ and spreading the rumor he was resurrected? The Jews were a conquered people, and somehow siding or aiding this small cult would do nothing to help the Romans.

Jews
Suggesting the Jews somehow lied about or fabricated the resurrection is absurd. They were the ones who wanted Him crucified and warned the Romans about the resurrection possibility. The Jewish leaders saw Christ as a threat and the sooner he was dead, buried, and forgotten, the better. It was not the first time Jewish leaders had made attempts on his life, but this time they were successful and would not want to do anything that would undermine their authority with their own people.

At that time, the Jews did not have the right to administer the death penalty, so they had to display Jesus as a threat to the Romans. William Lane Craig wrote, “Historians are unanimous that Jesus of Nazareth, having been condemned by the Jewish authorities for blasphemy and delivered to the Roman authorities on the pretext of treason, met His death by crucifixion.” 3

Believers
Finally, we have the disciples who some suggest lied about the resurrection. To what gain? Without exception they all suffered, and most died for their proclamations that Christ was King and he was the answer to eternal life. The disciples and their followers were persecuted and often paid the price with their life as you read above.

Some may argue that countless numbers of people have died for beliefs that were not true. A common example are the Taliban terrorists who flew planes into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and targeted Congress in the hopes of taking as many American lives with them as possible. The 911 terrorists gave their lives for what they believed to be true, but that is the significant difference with all believers from all other religions, and even believers in Christianity. We may suffer persecution, spend lives in the mission field, work in third world countries to spread our beliefs, but the disciples did not die for what they believed to be true, they died for what they knew to be true.

Up until the resurrection, the disciples were hiding, and frightened about what the future held. Keep in mind they were eye witness’ to numerous miracles already. Jesus walking on water, feeding thousands with just a few loaves and fish, healing the lame and blind and lepers, raising the dead, miraculous catch of fish, and the casting out of demons. Despite seeing and hearing about these miraculous signs and wonders, once Christ was arrested, flogged, and nailed to the cross, the disciples scattered. skepticsThen they saw their resurrected Lord and it changed everything. They gave everything to bear witness to his life, message, and resurrection. Power, money, influence, women, status, land, wealth in any form, meant nothing to them.

Boghossian’s second rudimentary objection was someone ransacked the tomb. For what purpose? No accounts that I have ever read suggested that Christ was buried with any riches. If someone was to ransack the tomb, could it be for the purpose of stealing the body? I have already briefly outlined how the major players had nothing to gain from stealing the body of Christ to somehow give the illusion of resurrection. The tomb was sealed and guarded.

Certainly the friends or family of Jesus had nothing to gain from stealing his body. What logic is their in stealing the body of your leader or teacher, then proclaim his resurrection, only to be persecuted to the point of death. And his enemies, the Jews and Romans, would gain nothing by faking the resurrection. Maybe they stole his body to flush out the remaining believers, but why would the remaining believers suddenly and boldly proclaim the message of Christ without having actually seen the physical body of their risen Lord? It was his physical body, his physical presence, that altered the minds of the disciples in such a way that they became fearless.

Finally, Boghossian suggested the witnesses were unreliable, but giving the historical testimony a good look, just the opposite is true. J Warner Wallace is an expert on eye witness testimony. In fact, his specialty is researching cold case homicides. In his book Cold-Case Christianity, Wallace outlines the reliability of the witnesses. He looks at if they were present and if their testimony was corroborated. There are many other factors to consider, but I will just look at those two.

Were They Present?
Life of Jesus – AD 1-33
Mark writes his gospel – AD 45-50
Luke writes his gospel – AD 50-53
Paul quotes Luke – AD 53-57
Luke writes Acts – AD 57-60
Death of James, Peter, and Paul – AD 61-65
Siege of Jerusalem – AD 67-70
Temple destroyed – AD 70 4

The gospel accounts listed above do not mention the siege of Jerusalem, or the destruction of the temple; both would have weighed heavily on the disciples and undoubtedly would have been mentioned in the gospel accounts. This tells historians that these accounts were written before the siege of Jerusalem, and of course after the resurrection. This is just over a 30 year period for the gospel writers to document their experiences and spread the good news they witnessed.

Was their testimony corroborated?
The gospel accounts have been verified and supported by numerous historical accounts outside the New Testament. Josephus, once a Jew who became a Roman historian, wrote Antiquities of the Jews, mentions John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and Jesus Himself, including that three days after his crucifixion he was reported to be seen alive. 5 Other historical accounts corroborated information within the New Testament, Thallus, Tacitus, and Mara Bar-Serapion to name a few.

One little mentioned piece of evidence used is the use of personal names in the gospel accounts. Some skeptics might claim that the accounts were legendary. For legend to take place, you need a large gap of time between the actual event and when the legends were written. There was not enough time for legendary accounts to have been written by the New Testament authors as you have seen above, but also the use of personal names is not usually found in legendary accounts of historical events.

Richard Bauckham researched this and compiled hundreds of names in three distinctly different cultures in that time period, and studied their use and frequency in each culture. The three cultures were the Palestinian Jewish community, the Diaspora, (scattered Gentile Jewish) community, and the strictly Gentile community. Bauckham found the use and frequency of the names in the New Testament correspond with the Palestinian Jewish community, which would be the community that surrounded the life and times of Jesus. 6

Boghossian suggests that people lied in the gospel accounts, that the tomb was ransacked, and that the witnesses were unreliable. Volumes have been written dismissing this claims by skeptics, and if you are interested in reading up on them yourself, I will recommend three books that would enable you to address any claims by atheists or skeptics that cast doubt on the resurrection of Jesus.

Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace
On Guard by William Lane Craig
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

Sources:

1. Boghossian, Peter. A Manual for Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print.
2. Van Voorst, Robert E. Jesus Outside the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. Print.
3. Craig, William Lane. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print.
4. Wallace, James Warner. Cold-Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2013. Print.
5. Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.
6. Moreland, J P. Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs: Nav Press. 2012. Print.

Giant Bearded Ogre

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Did you know that if a 4 year old boy full of testosterone and energy runs at you full steam it is best to keep an eye on him? Having raised 4 children, you would think that kind of detail would not have left my long term memory.

My wife and I serve every other Sunday teaching the 4 and 5 year old’s at church, and this past Sunday we took them out to the back playground for a bit. At least I think they are 4 & 5 year old’s. I think it says that on the door to our Sunday school room, and they are all about thigh high on me, which seems about right for a 4 & 5 year old child.

In my experience, I have found that if you let them run amok (I mean, left them play in an orderly, non-violent fashion) for a few minutes prior to sitting them at the table to do a craft, they seem to be this >< much more attentive. If you don’t understand my >< symbol, it refers to a very small amount, but when you are herding cats or dealing with 4 and 5 year old’s, any improvement with behavior, no matter how miniscule, even at the sub atomic level, is a blessing.

So, we were out in the back playground and I was playing the giant bearded ogre who wanted to eat small children. I was thoroughly enjoying the my part in the chaotic scene, when one of the boys, (who will remain unnamed until the law suit is public), decided it was time to kick this ogre ass. Can I say ass in a Christian blog? Anyway, I am still unsure what the switch was that triggered in his brain to move him from running in terror, fleeing for his very life, to suddenly become a warrior in the Lord of the Rings with a mission to kill all orks and ogre’s, especially ones that want to eat small children who are running amok during Sunday school.

I was chasing him, slightly bent over, with my arms reaching out Frankenstein style, when I heard a piercing scream from the left. One of the girls was announcing her presence in the usual way, by attempting to break any crystal wine glasses within a 2 mile proximity. I looked left and hesitated for a moment, thinking, once the deafening scream was over, she was a potential target, but then resumed my chase after the small boy. In the moment I looked left and hesitated, the small boy I was chasing had turned one hundred and eighty degrees ninja style and was charging full steam at me with his hand raised in an obvious attempt to rescue the young lady in distress.

He managed to run between my long Frankenstein arms and land a punch that would have rocked Goliath to his rear.

Please note, f you take a small boy’s fist and ram it into an adult male’s eye, it is just about a perfect fit for the eye socket. In fact, if given enough velocity, (my running forward and his running toward me), for a moment the small fist will actually take the position of the eyeball. One might ask, where the eyeball goes when a small child’s fist takes the eyeball’s rightful position. Honestly I am not sure, but I have this 2D image, (remember it was only one eyeball) of the inner workings of my brain. So I can only conclude that my eyeball moved with the same velocity from what it thought was its permanent position, (housed securely in my eye socket), to my brain.

If you think that is bizarre, I actually heard the squish of my eyeball being replaced with the fist of a small boy. I am not kidding! I actually heard it! The only thing I can think of which would be a comparable sound would be if you took off your shoes and socks and began to stomp excessively fat snails on your kitchen cutting board. I have not attempted to duplicate the sound in this manner, and I would not suggest any men try with your wife near by, but it should give you a visual hearing aid, (pun intended).

I never knew you could hear your eyeball squish. In fact, I never even wondered if an individual could hear their eyeball squish. I mean, who even thinks about those kinds of things? Thinking I could be on to some kind of valuable scientific discovery, I contacted the three top Biological Science Universities, (Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley) and described my experience, culminating in hearing the squish of my eyeball. Stanford and Harvard transferred me to the psychology department, but Berkeley encouraged me to apply.

What does this have to do with apologetics? Very little really, but tapping out this brief story helped me to forget the slight eye ache I have, and to encourage you to consider reading about apologetics. What is apologetics? Well, it is not apologizing for your faith. Apologetics stems from the Greek word ‘apologia’ which means, “to give a defense”.

Josh McDowell wrote, “One thing that has especially appealed to me is that the Christian faith is not a blind, ignorant belief but rather an intelligent faith. Every time in the Bible when a person is called upon to exercise faith, it’s an intelligent faith.

Christ was asked, ‘What is the greatest commandment of all?’ He answered, ‘To love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind.’

The problem with most people is that they seem to stop with their hearts. The facts about Christ never get to their minds. We’ve been given a mind innovated by the Holy Spirit to know God, as well as a heart to love him and a will to choose hm. We need to function in all three areas to have a maximum relation ship with God and to glorify him.”1

As I continue to read ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists‘, I am encouraged by what I have learned in the past two years. I recognize many of the logical fallacies and assumptions that are made within the book, and I also quickly realized had I not been studying apologetics for the past couple years, reading ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ would have seriously damaged my faith.

Boghossian wants to create ‘Street Epistemologists’. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and it is a play on Street Evangelists. Boghossian redefines faith as, “Pretending to know things you don’t know” 2 He makes the same mistake that many Christians do, placing faith against knowledge. As if the more knowledge you have, the less faith you need. For example, if you have 90% knowledge of something you are left with 10% faith. Then if you have 60% knowledge you now have 40% faith. But if you think about it, you gain faith by knowledge. The opposite of faith is not knowledge, it is unbelief, and the opposite of knowledge is ignorance.

I was ignorant to the dangers of chasing small boys, but my faith in the Christian world view is unshaken, despite the fact that a four year old boy can take me out.

Sources:
1. McDowell, Josh. The Best of Josh McDowell, A ready Defense. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993. Print.
2. Boghossian, Peter. A Manual For Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print.

How to Create an Atheist

How to Create an Atheist

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A Manual For Creating Atheists is the title of a book I purchased this week on Amazon. It was published in 2013, authored by Peter Boghossian, a philosopher professor at Portland State University. He even has a class on atheism, and I came across the syllabus online that skeptic.com published. I have only just started reading it, but I want to share some quotes and comments held within:

Boghossian wrote, “One of my students asked me if a person could be rational and go to church. I responded, ‘Can one be rational and sing songs? And read poetry? And play games? And read ancient texts? Of course. One can do all of these things and be rational.’ Religion is not necessarily an insurmountable barrier to reason and rationality. The problem is not that people are reading ancient texts. I read Shakespeare with my son. I don’t, however, think that lago, Hamlet, and Lear were historical figures. I also don’t derive my ultimate moral authority from Shakespeare’s works. I don’t want to kill people who have rival interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays. Nor do I attempt to bring Othello into decisions at the ballot box.” 1

Boghossian went on to say, “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM [DSM stands for The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and is published by the American Psychiatric Association as the reference text for psychologists.] would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” 2

Boghossian shared prior to a public lecture, “The original title of my lecture was, ‘Jesus, Muhammad, the Tooth Fairy, and Other Evil Creatures.’ However, the organizer of the event politely asked me to tone down the title. I submitted the following, which was accepted without question: ‘Jesus, Mother Teresa, the Tooth Fairy, and Other Evil Creatures.”3   As we have seen before, insulting Jesus is acceptable, but insult Muhammad that is not politically correct.

Boghossian wrote, “Just as the body is exposed to toxins so is the mind. Faith is an unclassified cognitive illness disguised as a moral virtue. Each of us dreads the thought of becoming ill, and we take whatever measure necessary to regain our health. No so with the faith virus. People infected by faith feel gratitude and appreciation for their affliction.”4

In Chapter 9 of his book, Boghossian covers what he calls Containment Protocols. These are ways he suggests to contain or eliminate the Christian faith. I will touch on his list of eleven briefly below.

1. Use the word “faith” only in a religious context. – “…when the faithful are pressed on the definition of faith (when they’re shown they can’t and don’t really know Jesus performed these miracles), they usually retreat to the words ‘hope,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘confidence,’ abandoning knowledge and certainty.

2. Stigmatize faith-based claims like racist claims. – In the short term, one specific verbal technique to help contain faith-based justification is through the ‘Adult Table’ response. One can sit at the Adult Table if one has evidence in support of a position… Those at the Kids Table can talk about anything they’d like, but they have no adult responsibilities and no voice in public policy.”

3. Parrhesia [asking for forgiveness for what you say]: Speaking truth in the face of danger. – “Be honest. Be direct. Be blunt. Be unapologetic. Don’t complain, apologize, or mumble in the defense of reason. Don’t tone it down or talk baby talk. Never say, “I’m sorry but…”, or “Forgive me for saying…” or “You’ll excuse me for mentioning…” Instead, tell people exactly what you think and why you think it. Take a punch and give a punch.”

4. Stay Informed. – If you haven’t read their books already, I’d start with the Four Horsemen and Michael Shermer (I suggest beginning with Harris and Shermer and ending with Dawkins and Dennett)….If you must buy one of [the Christian Apologists] books buy it used and support a local bookstore, this way the author doesn’t receive any royalties. (Excellent advice actually, this is exactly how I purchased A Manual For Creating Atheists.)

5. Contribute. – If you don’t become a Street Epistemologist, you can still make a contribution to reason and rationality. If you’re an organizer then create groups to raise money or help established , reputable organizations like the Center for Inquiry or the James Randi Educational Foundation.

6. Experiment and publicize. – Develop and test your own strategies to fight the faith virus. Consider publicizing your particular contribution in an appropriate medium: books, magazines, YouTube, fiction, documentaries, plays, editorials and letters to the editor, songs, art works, etc.

7. Form academic-community partnerships. – The high school and university systems should be used as reason and rationality incubation chambers. One of the ways to do this is through the formation of academic-community partnerships. Individual teachers, professors, and entire departments can reach out to organizations like the Skeptics Society, the James Randi Educational Foundation. Other examples are the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the Center for Inquiry, the Secular Student Alliance, Project Reason, or other well-respected organizations.

8. Treat faith as a public health crisis. – There are groups, institution, and organizations…(e.g., Alliance Defending Freedom, Alliance Defense Fund, American Center for Law and Justice, Christian Legal Society, Christian Law Association, National Legal Foundation, mega and micro-churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.). I want to be clear that I’m not advocating making faith illegal, in the same way racism cannot be made illegal. I advocate conceptualizing the faith problem from a public health perspective and designing interventions based upon this model.

9. Financially cripple purveyors of faulty epistemologies. – A key containment protocol is to financially cripple any institution that propagates a faulty epistemology, starting with the most egregious perpetrators: religious institutions…Once these organizations are financially compromised, their reach and power will be greatly diminished. (He goes on to list goals to financially cripple faith-based institutions.)

10. Create skeptical (atheist) children.– Many children from religious households abandon and do not regain their faith. And, if trends of belief in God continue to plummet, both social acceptance of atheism and the number of atheists will continue to rise.

11. Remove religious exemption for delusion from the DSM. – It is crucial that the religious exemption for delusion be removed from the DSM. Once religious delusions are integrated into the DSM, entirely new categories of research and treatment in into the problem of faith can be created. 5

Are the above comments a cause for concern? They should be! Other bloggers have had some concerns about his book. Randal Rauser had a quality blog post about Boghossian and hate speech. Thinking Christian.net has published a brief on his book that will be worth reading. I think Tom Gilson has one of the best Christian blogs out there. You can download it for free. Tom has another article on the Strawman arguments Boghossian uses. Finally, Tom was interviewed by Greg Koukl not long ago. The interview is in the last hour of his 3 hour podcast.  I have been listening to Greg Koukl for about 2 years now and have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in apologetics from him, and his website str.org is a wealth of knowledge.

I encourage you to share this post with others. Be aware of the disdain some atheists hold for Christians and their efforts to marginalize our faith. But more importantly, research the claims of Christianity and the evidence for it and be prepared with an answer.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15

Sources:

1. Boghossian, Peter. A Manual For Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print.

2. Ibid., 222.

3. Ibid., 223

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., 210-221

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