f The Wittenberg Door: September 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
My Photo

Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tolerance and Islam

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

“Tolerance,” classically defined, refers to how you treat someone with whom you disagree. You show tolerance when you treat your opponent with dignity, fairly represent his views, and graciously engage him—or, to put it simply, you don’t kill him for having divergent views. Tolerance is a decidedly Christian virtue.

The classical definition of tolerance has fallen on hard times, though. Post-modernity has refashioned the term into something warm and fuzzy—a verbal counterpart to the ubiquitous smiley face.

No longer is tolerance characterized by charitable disagreement. The modern notion is that to be tolerant is not to disagree at all, but rather that all views ought to be embraced equally—well, sort of.

Not only has the term been redefined, but it has also been narrowed: only those views deemed socially acceptable are accorded toleration. All other views are marginalized—all other views, that is, except Islam. It gets a pass. Reason being, by redefining tolerance, the West has been rendered impotent when meeting the challenge of Islam.

The Cry for Tolerance

I recommend a post over at the Wheat and Chaff blog titled Insolent Remarks (Friday, September 15). Rev. Powell does a fine job of driving home this redefined tolerance practiced by Islam. Here’s an excerpt:

This cry for tolerance that we hear every time we turn around is a pretence. The Muslims don't believe in it- they'll put us all to the sword if they get the chance unless we convert, and until then will use the pretence to sap our strength and will to fight. And the champions of tolerance and multiculturalism in the west will advocate it only so long as they're in power and can keep the intolerant from cutting their throats. 9/11 was viewed as an isolated event, and so it didn't change a lot of people's belief that we could all get along. And the only thing keeping "tolerance" alive is the ineptness of the terrorists and the skill of the men and women defending the west, largely unappreciated and behind the scenes. If a few more 9/11s happened, a lot more people would see things for what they are, a bloody struggle to the death between two ideologies that cannot coexist on the same planet, and we'd see a lot fewer fake outrages like this one.

On a related topic, Pastor Lee Johnson poses the question: The Pope - Politician or Preacher. Here’s how the starts off . . .

This is a sad story to see. The Pope quoted an old emperor who thought that everything that Mohommed taught that was new, was evil. The Pope did not endorse this idea, but he also did not condemn it. The response from the Arab world was swift. They condemned the Pope for his anti-Islam speech even though these same countries fail to condemn suicide bombings, terrorism, and other atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Oh and do not forget that all of these countries make a sport of condemning Israel.

But what is really sad about this story is not the predictable response from a religion that does indeed teach evil. What is sad is the Pope’s response.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Lazy Atheist?— The Christian Worldview (Conclusion)

In part 1 I mentioned that for a worldview to be viably considered it must be able to make sense of reality. Atheism as a worldview fails to provide a foundation for abstract (non-material), invariant (things not given to change) entities, such as morality, mathematics, laws of logic, and propositions. Moreover, atheism fails to make sense of love and beauty, and is found wanting when it comes to accounting for the regularity of nature.

So what are we to make of it when atheists love, show compassion, demand justice, use logic and mathematics, and engage in the scientific enterprise? Like a drowning man denying the existence of water, they must assume the Christian worldview in order to refute it—for it is Christianity, not atheisim, that comports with reality.

Christianity Provides the Answers

Christianity answers the tough questions:

  • Morality
    Murder (the unjust taking of a human life) is wrong. We know this innately. The same is true with theft, adultery, rape, lying, etc. (Sure, there’ve been variations on these themes, but the themes remain.)

    Morality reflects God’s character. He is holy, righteous, and just. We are beings created in his image; therefore, we are moral agents. It is upon this very foundation that civilization is made possible.

  • Mathematics and the Laws of Logic
    Prove 2+2=4. Most people grab four items, place them next to each other, and then say “two pencils and two pencils equal four pencils.” But this doesn’t solve the problem—it merely restates the equation using a different physical representation.

    How about the laws of logic? Are the laws of logic—the law of non-contradiction (A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense), the law of identity (A is A), and the law of excluded middle (A is either A or it isn’t)—merely human inventions? If they are, we’re doomed. Actually, all cultures assume the laws of logic. Language isn’t even possible without them, and thus civilization would not be possible.

    2+2=4 because that’s the way it is in the mind of God; and the laws of logic reflect His thinking. Again, we think this way because we are His image bearers. Thus, Aristotle discovered (i.e., categorized) the laws of logic; he did not invent them.

  • Uniformity of Nature
    God upholds all things by the word of His power. It is because of this that we see regularity in nature, and it is because of this that we can extrapolate future events from the past. This provides the needed foundation for science and answers Hume’s Problem of Induction. All this without making incredulous claims like everything came from nothing; order came from disorder; life came from non-life; consciousness came from non-consciousness, etc.

  • Propositions
    How much does a thought weigh? How deep into space does a proposition extend? How long is it? Imagine Snoopy atop his red-roofed doghouse. Now, if we opened your cranium, would we find him there? I don’t think so. But if thoughts are material, he must be there! Perhaps we just don’t have a microscope powerful enough.

Wrapping It Up

Like the previous post, this is just a thumbnail sketch (and we still didn’t have room to talk about love and beauty)—but at least it’s a start. All claims to explain reality must be scrutinized, including atheism. The ball’s in your court, Penn.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Lazy Atheist?—Part 1

Penn Jillette, of the popular magic duo Penn and Teller, spent some time pontificating on the existence of God over at NPR’s site. Doug TenNapel does a masterful job (with a little salty language) at his blog of dismantling the confused Vegas trickster, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel. But I would like to offer an observation:

Atheists Tend to be Intellectually Lazy When it Comes to Defending Their Atheism

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.

Penn Jillette

What a wonderful world it must be where you can simply make metaphysical proclamations without bothering to support them with any arguments. To be fair, Penn is not alone in this; this is typical of atheists—but is it justifiable?

Atheism assumes a naturalistic worldview—only material things exist. This is the point where we need to start asking questions.

Is the proposition that only material things exist itself material?

If so, where did they discover it? Under a microscope? Did they trip over the proposition in a parking lot?

If not, the game is over. (That is, of course, unless they’d like to try their hand at proving that material things produce non-material things.)

How about morality? Are moral laws merely human conventions?

They must be. Then by convention Nazi Germany can institute its final solution. The civilized world might not like it, but hey, who are they to judge?

By the way, if morals are culturally defined by the majority, then the moral reformer is by definition amoral. That means people like Martin Luther King should be spurned not praised.

How is science possible in an atheistic universe?

Science depends upon the regularity of the universe. We talk about the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, ect., but how can there be such laws in a world were everything comes about by random chance? All they can do is describe what has happened in the past. They have no foundation for drawing conclusions about future events. Atheist philosopher David Hume’s Problem of Induction makes this very point.

It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not that, for the future, it will continue so.

David Hume (1711 - 1776)

Does the Emperor Have Clothes?

What about love? Is there an intrinsic difference between love and hate? Or are they simply different chemical reactions in the brain? Is there a thing called beauty? Is it objective? Is there really a difference between a sunset and a pile of dung? Penn tells us of his enjoyment of both these things (love and beatify that is, not chemicals and dung). He also seems interested in the plight of his fellow man. I’m sure that Penn is sincere, and I don’t question his compassion.

But in a world where we are simply matter in motion, where survival of the fittest reigns, why ought we care about anyone else? Is there really a difference between feeding a starving child or strangling him? If so, how do you account for such distinctions in an atheistic universe?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more could be raised, but these are a good start. It’s time for Penn and his ilk to stop ducking the debate with copouts like, “you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.” Atheists are putting forth a worldview that is radically counter-intuitive—that doesn’t fit the facts. It’s time for them to step-up to the plate and take a shot; and they can start by answering the questions above.

Part 2

For any worldview to be viably considered, it must be able to make sense of reality. This, of course, would include Christianity. In part 2 I’ll make the case for Christianity by considering the aforementioned questions.


Monday, September 11, 2006

God’s Aseity, Self-sufficiency, and Love—A Contradiction?

Two of God’s incommunicable attributes (belonging to God alone) are His aseity (self-existence, John 5:26) and His self-sufficiency (Psm. 50:12-13). His name “El Shaddai” (God all-sufficient, Gen. 17:1, 2) signifies these attributes. Being the great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14), God’s existence is not dependent on anything or anyone, nor does He need anything or anyone.

We also find in Scripture that God is love (1 John 4:8), meaning that He is characterized by love. This poses an interesting question when the previous two perfections are considered. Here’s what I mean: Love requires an object. It’s not possible to love something or someone unless there is something or someone to love. Let’s put this in a simple syllogism (a deductive argument where the conclusion is inferred from the supporting propositions):

God is love. Love needs an object. Therefore, God needs an object for His love.

The argument is valid (it's structured properly) and sound (the premises—supporting propositions—are true). Therefore, by force of logic, the conclusion is inescapable: God needs something. So how does this square with His aseity and self-sufficiency?

The Trinity

The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Spirit, and vise versa all around, and this from all eternity. This cannot be said of anything else, for all else is created by God (Gen. 1:1). Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is the only explanation that avoids contradiction.

So next time you speak with a Jehovah’s Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, or anyone else of the non-Trinitarian stripe, give this line of reasoning a whirl.

Labels: , ,