Reviewing Adam Tucker’s Presuppositional Apologetic Critique [2]

I want to continue with evaluating Adam Tucker’s critique of presuppositional apologetics he offered at the 2013 International Society of Christian Apologetics. The paper has been transferred into a series of four blog posts that can be found linked from HERE.  I already provided a ton of background in the first part, so I would exhort readers to read it first before proceeding with this one.

Again, I apologize that this material may be a bit weighty and boring to some; but I believe the following discussion is vital to how we think biblically about evangelism and apologetics, so try to stick it out. Let’s get up, take a walk, grab some coffee, and come back.

boo

Tucker raises a number of critical objections against presuppositionalism, but I’d like to focus on four that stood out to me:

1) If there are no “brute” or “uninterpreted facts” are those “facts” true for everyone, regenerate and unregenerate, or are these facts only facts inside our own interpretive system of basic commitments and assumptions?

First, we need to have the correct definition of “brute facts” and what Van Til meant by the concept. When Van Til talked about “brute facts,” he meant there were no facts uninterpreted by God, because God is the creator; He is the one who interprets all facts. Uninterpreted facts are therefore meaningless, explained Van Til, the product of a universe of pure chance. Because God is sovereign and has decreed His eternal plans and operates according to His creative and providential activity, all “facts” find their meaning grounded in His character. So when a presuppositionalist says there are no brute facts, he means to say there are no facts uninterpreted by God.

Thus, as John Frame notes in his analysis of Van Til’s thought,

“Philosophers and scientists have sometime sought to base their thinking on “brute facts,” because they have wanted to find a starting point for human thought outside of God’s revelation. Since, on their view, human thought is ultimate, it must be based, not on God’s prior thought, but on something prior to all thought, namely fact. These brute facts must be utterly independent of the laws imputed to reality by human thought, if they are to be the justification for human thought. [Frame, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, 180-181].

So to answer Tucker’s question, yes, those facts are true for everyone everywhere because it is God who imputes meaning to all facts. Two plus two is four in a base ten number system and is equally true for a believer as it is for an unbeliever because the mind of God is logical.

He then follows up his main question by stating, “If it is indeed true for everyone, then it seems this position is false. If it is not true for everyone, then it remains the case that there are facts and uses which transcend world views with which we can reason with unbelievers.” Tucker concludes that real “brute facts” are identified with the so-called “first principles” or what he also defines as “Transcendental Presuppositions” which everyone undeniably shares.

As a presuppositionalist, I would agree with him that everyone undeniably shares those “first principles/Transcendental Presuppositions.”  However, unbelievers share them not because they have the ability to experience them with their senses, and draw the proper conclusions as to how they are to understand those principles, but because God their creator has stamped His image on their hearts. So if we properly use Van Til’s definition of “brute facts,” there are still no uninterpreted facts, because God, by the fact He is the sovereign creator, brings meaning to and interprets those “first principles.”

2) If Scripture is to be the starting point for the Christian in an apologetic encounter, how exactly are unbelievers to understand Scripture? From where would the principles of hermeneutics come? 

Citing from Richard Howe’s blog article blasting Ken Ham’s lecture that I noted in my first part, Tucker quotes him as stating, “But if Ham cannot get from God’s word his principles of interpretation that he needs to understand God’s word… then he would have to say that he gets his principles of interpretation from man’s word.” Howe goes on to chide Ken Ham, because he had said man’s word is faulty; yet, he seems oblivious to this ridiculous philosophical conundrum he has created for himself.

Both Howe and Tucker are of the opinion that a person cannot understand the meaning of the Bible unless one first has in place a system of hermeneutics, principles of interpretation that draws meaning from the text. Since the Bible doesn’t have a particular section within its pages providing any readers with the rules of how to read it, no apologist can then start with the Bible, because how to read it must be established first before you can read it. Thus, we have to first learn from men who have developed hermeneutics in order to even read the Bible.  It is an embarrassing, sophomoric claim to tell people a Christian must have a starting point in God’s infallible Word, when in point of fact they are really starting with man’s fallible word so as to comprehend God’s infallible Word.

processI know these two men think they have pointed out a clever defeater for presuppositionalism, but I don’t believe they truly grasp the problem they have created even for themselves. If it is true that we must first have a system of hermeneutics in place before we can use the Bible, then that has to be true for any form of communication either verbal or written. Any literary story, written correspondence, or speech, would essentially be meaningless if what they are saying is true. Even his sacred “first principles” that Tucker has been advocating here is subject to this quandary.

But no one lives like that. Humanity communicates with each other all the time without even thinking once about systems of hermeneutics. I can have a technical talk with the clerk at Best Buy about computers, attend a reading of poetry at a book club, even have tweet exchanges with trolls on Twitter, and know instantly what is being written or said. And if there is some uncertainty as to what’s being stated, it is rather easy to figure out with some clarifying questions.  Why is that? Again, because God not only originally created mankind with the ability to communicate with each other, but more importantly, with God almighty.

Reading Genesis 1-3, when God told man he could eat of any tree freely except the one in the midst of the garden, the man had to know what a tree was, what it was to eat, and understand prohibitive commands. The hermeneutics he needed to engage the world and thrive was given to him at creation and remains there to this day in each person. Sure, we speak different languages and have differing cultural influences that shape our worldviews, but if there is misunderstanding, it doesn’t take any time to figure out what is being said.

Only in the pages of books called Five Views of Hermeneutics and in the makeshift class rooms at a philosophical apologetic conference is the question of so-called competing hermeneutics even seriously pursued.

3) If man’s mind is darkened, and knowledge starts in the mind, then it stands to reason that man is incapable of accurately knowing anything about reality.

That comment defines for us a profound and significant theological disagreement between the classical apologetic model and presuppositionalism. Classical apologists separate the will of man from his reasoning and makes them two distinct, anthropological categories. As Tucker goes on to explain, while he affirms the influence of sin upon man’s ability to understand and correctly interpret reality, he believes that problem is mostly due to moral reasons because of the weakness of the will. In other words, man’s reason is relatively free from the influence of sin, where as his will is not. So man retains his reasoning abilities to take in knowledge according to his sense, but his weak will may affect his ability to interpret that knowledge accurately.

Presuppositionalist, on the other hand, go to Scripture (our starting point!) and what God has revealed about the nature of man. The Bible does not compartmentalize the nature of man in the way classic apologists insist.  Instead, the Bible tells us sin impacts the totality of who man is, so that both the will of man and his reasoning are affected by the fall.  For instance, Ephesians 4:17 states that unbelievers walk in the “futility of their mind (reasoning ability),” that their “understanding is darkened (reasoning ability),” all because of their “blindness of heart (will and reason).”

Though I certainly agree with Tucker that men can learn things and take in knowledge with their senses, their sin and rebellion against God causes them to reject the proper conclusions regarding that learned information. So for example, an unbeliever can be shown information that affirms the rationality of God’s existence, or the historical facts about the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection, and the textual reliability of the NT documents. Even though he can take in that information with his senses, he refuses to believe that information is true, and will, as Paul writes in Romans 1:18ff., suppress that truth in unrighteousness.

4) If the unbeliever has his own language and logic and interprets everything through the same filter of his worldview, how exactly does he come to embrace an entirely new “worldview,” particularly the worldview of Christianity?

The biblical answer is of course the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life.

The question regrettably illustrates the troubling manner in which classic apologists will often diminish the work of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the mind of men to believe savingly, as well as correctly, upon the knowledge they do receive about God during an apologetic/evangelistic encounter. Tucker’s follow up comment not only diminishes the work of the Holy Spirit, it even underestimates the polluting influence of sin upon the intellect.  He goes on to ask, “how does a regenerate mind help one rightly know reality?” and then mockingly suggests that such is merely “punting to the Holy Spirit.” The person, he states, would only know the thoughts about reality given by the Holy Spirit and not reality itself.

He gives the impression that he thinks presuppositionalists are saying there are different sets of “facts” for the reality of unbelievers, but others for believers. But that is not what they are saying at all. Reality is the same for both believers and unbelievers. It is the meaning brought to understanding the reality that is the difference and sin, as Scripture declares, blinds the mind of men to the point they view reality apart from God. Believers and unbelievers share the same reality, but draw radically different conclusions about its meaning.  That is why evolutionists read the “facts” and draw an entirely different history for the origins of the earth than the one recorded in Scripture.

The goal of apologetics and evangelism is to bring the biblical worldview to bear upon the unbiblical one held by the unbeliever and trust the Holy Spirit to open eyes and draw sinners unto Christ for salvation.

Concluding Remarks

I don’t wish for my evaluation to come across as a personal disparagement against the author. I commend him for involving himself in campus ministry tailored to reach college students with the Gospel. My exhortation is that he revisit what it was Van Til taught. I think he missed some crucial points of presuppositionalism that are important to grasp in order to offer a genuine critique, for instance his overview of brute facts.

I would also exhort him, as well as other classic apologists, to provide a biblical frame work on which to hang their methodology. His presentation was devoid of any biblical theology and the citation of Scripture was glaringly absent. That may not be intentional because the thrust of the article was geared more to evaluating epistemological philosophy.

However, in the context of Christianity, it is paramount that we draw our thinking toward the application of God’s Word in these matters. As believers who proclaim the Gospel, I want us to develop our apologetic methodology built upon the exegesis of the Word of God that produces a robust biblical theology that shapes our practical methodology. I personally don’t see the classical apologetics advocated with Tucker’s articles leading me in that direction.

Reviewing Adam Tucker’s Presuppositional Apologetic Critique [1]

When time permits, I have been writing on the subject of apologetic theology and methodology (see previous articles HERE, HERE, and HERE).  As I have done so, it has been my desire to interact with any challenges offering serious critiques of my position, particularly those from the classical apologetic camp.

Earlier this year, I was directed to a four-part series of posts critical of presuppositionalism written by a fellow named Adam Tucker who is the Ratio Christi campus chapter director at UNC Greensboro. The four posts were originally one paper Adam presented at the 2013 conference for the International Society of Christian Apologetics. All four articles are linked from HERE.

sleepybabyI can say at the outset that unless you are really a hardcore student of apologetics, the subject matter I am going to address may be a tad murky. In fact, I imagine a lot of you will glaze over and check out after the first few paragraphs. You know, the old “I’ll save this for later” excuse.

I am interacting with a critical evaluation of presuppositionalism’s view of epistemology, so I can understand if you wish to take off mid-way through. Additionally, the posts I am considering are loaded with technical, philosophical jargon; but to be fair, Tucker wrote his paper for a specialized conference full of beard-stroking, ceiling-gazing Christian apologists who use a lot of philosophically loaded and jargoney lingo, so I expect the same with such a paper.

The problem, however, is that the author doesn’t seem to have a complete grasp of what it was Van Til taught, as well as what his students taught who carried his legacy into our modern day. No amount of jargon can cover over that shortcoming as I will show moving through my evaluation.  In spite of that, I think it is important to address these apologetic disagreements with our methodological opponents for the sake of sharpening our thinking, testing our theology, and honing our presentations, so let me get started.

Background and Overview

It may be helpful before I begin to provide something of a background and summary of the paper.  The background isn’t spelled out in the paper so much as it is my speculation I am applying to his arguments, so I am happy to be corrected; but I think I can explain why the author tackled the subject at hand.

A couple of years ago, Dr. Richard Howe, who teaches at Southern Evangelical Seminary, wrote on his blog about how he was troubled after having attended an apologetic lecture given by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. The particular lecture wasn’t recorded, but his discussion of what was presented sounds to be standard AiG apologetics, which I believe to be standard biblical apologetics.

startingpointsAccording to Howe, Ken Ham explained how the evolution vs. creation debate is not based upon which side has the best evidence or whether evidence determines the truthfulness of creation or evolution. Rather, there are two ways of looking at reality, either through the lens of God’s infallible Word or man’s fallible word.  Thus, as Ham went on to explain, our “starting point” as Christians when arguing against evolutionary constructs and defending biblical creationism must be God’s Word.

Howe stated that he was disturbed by Ham’s presentation and claimed that the watered-down presuppositionalism he used to defend his argument was bankrupt, self-refuting, and fraught with many problems. Howe was especially bothered by Ham’s discussion of the term “starting points” because he believes it leads to “perspectivism,” Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy that uses subjective means to determine “truth.”

He goes on to argue that Ken Ham, or any presuppositionalist for that matter, cannot have their “starting points” in Scripture, because in order to understand Scripture a person must first have in place a hermeneutical grid, or interpretive rules that draw out meaning from the biblical text, before he can even discuss the Bible.

Oddly, his reaction is against Ham’s main point in his presentation that answers the question of why the Bible teaches a young earth. Howe claims he himself is a young earth creationist, but seems to miss the fact that young earth creationism is a position that is largely determined from the revelation of Scripture alone, not evidence as Ham correctly points out. As I noted in my response article to Howe, his old earth classical apologist buddies believe he is “denying reality” because of his young earth views and they typically start with a different biblical hermeneutic when they defend their position.

Now, coming back to the posts at hand. Tucker, I believe, is basically expanding upon Howe’s argument that states it is extremely problematic for Christian apologists to ground his “starting points” in Scripture, because how we interpret or know Scripture needs to be established first apart from the Bible so as to understand the Bible. At least that is what I believe he is attempting to argue because he cites from Howe’s original blog article a number of times in his presentation.

Briefly summarized, Tucker argues against the view of “starting points,” by first attempting to dismantle the presuppositional idea of worldviews, that being, all men intersect and interpret their world, as well as interact with humanity, from a particular set of preundertstandings or interpretations, or what can be defined as a “worldview.” For the presuppositionalist, it is the worldview of the person an apologist assails in the apologetic encounter.  In his first article, he identifies the concept of a “predetermined” worldview with the concept of sociology of knowledge, or the notion that all men view reality according to certain a priori presuppositions that serve as a grid which filters everything a person seeks to understand.

Tucker then moves to answering the question of whether or not fallen men can know things about their world, according to their own experience, apart from God. He suggests that our minds are in fact a tabula rasa, or “blank slate,” that can be written on by our sense experiences, which in turn lessens, if not entirely does away with, the doctrine of the noetic effects of sin upon mankind.  And he is also especially dismissive of the presuppositional idea of there being no “brute facts,” or what would be understood by presuppositionalists as “uninterpreted facts in God’s universe.”

He further suggest that there is epistemological neutral ground on which a Christian can meet a non-Christian. In other words, Tucker, arguing for the classic apologetic camp of Aristotle (not sure when he was made an honorary Christian), Thomas Aquinas, and Norm Geisler, believes the world is full of uninterpreted, brute facts that Christians and non-Christians can seek together to understand their meaning apart from God telling us how we are to think about those facts.  Hence, a Christian apologist does not need to have his “starting points” grounded in Scripture first, but can meet the unbeliever in the middle as it were, and using the God-given knowledge we all share about “reality,” and along with our common “sense experiences,” determine the legitimacy of those facts for or against the Christian faith.

Evaluation

Most of my interaction will focus upon answering a set of important questions Tucker raises in the fourth post.  I’ll consider those questions in the second part of my review. For the remainder of this post, I’ll begin by pointing out what I believe is the fatal flaw to his entire thesis, because he inadvertently cuts the throat of his own case against presuppositionalists in his third article.

He writes,

[S]ince it is the real world that we are able to know and make judgements about, we can see that our judgements, and objectivity in general, are based on the foundational principles of thought and being known as first principles, or Transcendental Presuppositions (not to be confused with Kant’s transcendental forms/categories). You cannot think without using first principles. These Transcendental Presuppositions include things like the laws of noncontradiction, excluded middle, and identity. You cannot think without using first principles. These Transcendental Presuppositions include things like the laws of noncontradiction, excluded middle, and identity.

He then cites Norm Geisler, who claims that the so-called “first principles” are allegedly determined by “sensible knowledge,” when a person intellectually apprehends with his mind alone that some things are “being” or some things are “non-being” and thus the law of non-contradiction is affirmed.

Tucker then writes,

To deny these undeniable and universally valid laws is to use them, and thus affirm them. Geisler notes, “The basic laws of thought are self-evidently true….The only direct ‘proof’ of them is to state clearly their meaning, so that their self-evident nature becomes intuitively or immediately obvious. First principles, then, are not only indemonstrable but are actually undeniable.”

Tucker, and by extension Geisler, is essentially affirming what presuppositionalists have always stated and taught. That being, the laws of logic, mathematics, even absolute truths and morality, are self-evident and rightly fall into the category of “first principles.” I would call them “transcendent truths.” Where presuppositionalists dissent from the classic model of apologetics, however, is with their understanding of how a person knows the reality of those “first principles.”

Tucker (and Geisler) suggests that people know them by learning about them with their sensible knowledge, or their sense perception. So a person learns that fire is hot and ice is cold as they experience the sensation of hot and cold. They then conclude the law of non-contradiction, something cannot be hot and cold at the same time in the same way.

logic

Presuppositionalists, on the other hand, believe those “first principles” or “transcendent truths” reflect the character and mind of God our creator. The laws of logic exist because they are God’s laws of logic. Men only recognize and affirm what has always existed in the mind of God and that He has revealed to humanity at the creation.

Because men, according to Scripture, are created in the image of God, they too were designed to reflect the mind of God and think His thoughts after him. They affirm those principles/truths intuitively, not because they sensed them first, but because God has made man to think in a logical fashion. So early in a child’s development, they are acting in accord with the “laws of logic.” A toddler, early on, quickly affirms the law of non-contradiction when he realizes wooden blocks are hard and teddy bears soft.

Now Tucker, as well as Geisler, would more than likely say that those “first principles” or “transcendent truths” are what they are because God created them as such, or at least I would hope both of them would. It is exactly what a presuppositionalist like myself would say as well.  But what I see Tucker saying here with his statement is that those first principles are only “first principles” when a person comes to recognize them through means of their sense perception. That may not be what he is believes, but that is what I read him to be saying.

If that then is the case with how men “know” things, Tucker is left in the same quandary that he claims is a problem for presuppositionalists: How do men know they are interpreting those “first principles” correctly? A person can easily be mistaken. Is the person to trust the collective wisdom of the rest of humanity? If men are a tabula rasa when it comes to understanding reality, then the hermeneutics used to interpret the sense data has to be in place first in order to draw the correct conclusions on how to utilize it properly. Tucker’s (and Howe’s) starting points, have to be grounded in something else.

The reason why this is important, the reader may be wondering, has to do fundamentally with how we engage unbelievers, defend the faith, and herald the Gospel. If we understand what the Bible says about the intuitive condition of man to reason or not reason, and that his reasoning abilities are heavily impacted by the noetic effects of the fall, our approach to apologetics and evangelism will be profoundly shaped. It will also impact how we utilize Scripture in our apologetic encounter, and how much we can expect an unbeliever to naturally understand and know.

What Tucker is saying is that all men approach the discussion of facts, reality, and apologetics all in the same fashion: they determine their validity and recognize their rationality by the means of their senses. Presuppositionalists, on the contrary, understand what God has revealed about the condition of man: That God created men to be hard wired to think rationally AND that sin drastically impacts how men use their ability to reason and what they should conclude from that reasoning by their senses.

Thus, because men are created in the image of God, they already have in place the hermenutical grid necessary to not only use the so-called “first principles” outlined by Tucker and Geisler, but to also understand the Scripture. God created men to communicate with each other, but more importantly, for God to communicate with man and man back to God. Hence, a Christian apologist can certainly use the Scripture as his apologetic starting point, because men have been created to receive and understand revelation in the form of human language.

I’ll stop here and deal with Tucker’s key questions for presuppositionalists in the next post on this subject.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [5]

generationDoes Christianity Breed Arrogance, A “Chosen People” Mentality?

I return once again to examining atheist anarchist, Chaz Bufe, and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

We come to his 5th complaint, that Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen people mentality. I will let Chaz explain himself:

5. Christianity breeds arrogance, a chosen-people mentality. It’s only natural that those who believe (or play act at believing) that they have a direct line to the Almighty would feel superior to others. This is so obvious that it needs little elaboration. A brief look at religious terminology confirms it. Christians have often called themselves “God’s people,” “the chosen people,” “the elect,” “the righteous,” etc., while nonbelievers have been labeled “heathens,” “infidels,” and “atheistic Communists” (as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected). This sets up a two-tiered division of humanity, in which “God’s people” feel superior to those who are not “God’s people.”

That many competing religions with contradictory beliefs make the same claim seems not to matter at all to the members of the various sects that claim to be the only carriers of “the true faith.” The carnage that results when two competing sects of “God’s people” collide—as in Ireland and Palestine—would be quite amusing but for the suffering it causes.

Honestly, this point seems to be a tad redundant. It could have been combined with his previous point, Christianity is egocentric, so I will be brief.  Arrogance and egocentricism are pretty much one and same, or at least you could say they emerge from the same attitude of self-centeredness. Again, I do find it a bit humorous that a Christ-hating anarchist is calling for the abandonment (really an overthrow) of my Christian worldview and its replacement with his communistic worldview. No arrogance in that belief.

However, I think what Chaz goes after with this point is not so much the concept of arrogance as it is the idea of “a chosen people” mentality, because we all know how anarchist atheists have never had a “chosen people” mentality.

I mean if you think about it, as history has shown, anyone who genuinely believes communism is a viable worldview and whose thinking about life is driven by anarchist philosophy, will be utterly offended by an outside people group claiming to have superior values. Even more odious to the anarchist communist is the direct challenge those values may have to an anarchist philosophy, especially if the purveyors of those values claim they are superior to anarchism and are bold enough to say so, as well as call the anarchist to abandon his anarchy and embrace that competing set of values.

That reason alone is usually why communists, when they get organized on a state and national level, feel the need to eradicate all religious thinking by first executing all the spiritual leaders and then persecuting their followers when they take over a country with a violent show of anarchist force. Of course, Chaz conveniently ignores that particular display of a chosen people mentality.

Additionally, Chaz dabbles in a tad more dishonesty with a comment that can easily be passed over if one is not paying attention. After complaining about being label a “heathen” and an “infidel” by those terrible Christians who dare to think they have a unique place before the true and living God, Chaz lists one final alleged slur uttered by Christians against the non-chosen: atheistic communism. He then writes in parenthesis, “(as if atheism and Communism are intimately connected).”

Now, does Chaz really believe atheism and Communism are not intimately connected? Let me ask him this, can he name me one devoutly religious Communist who didn’t kill off dissenters?

The reality is that all of Chaz’s communistic forefathers he so reveres developed their communistic philosophy in a matrix of hatred toward religion. They were raised in religion, be it Lutheranism, Catholicism, or Russian Orthodox, got angry at God, and set out to philosophically and politically overthrow religion. This is true of Fredrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, V.I. Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, and Bertrand Russell.  All of the minds who wrote extensively about Communism wrote just as extensively against God and religion. Those individuals who applied Communism to their society had to exterminate religious thinking because it is so diametrically opposed to Communistic ideology. For Chaz to even suggest Communism can be implemented apart from atheism exposes the true ignorance of what Chaz is attempting to promote. His view is the worst sort of “chosen people mentality.”

Raining on Bro. Cloud’s 8 Presuppositions for Textual Criticism

rainI dropped by David Cloud’s Way of Strife, I mean Life, website recently.

Bro. Cloud is one of those screeching fundamentalists who likes to pound his pulpit against the encroachment of modernity in churches. Such modern things like contemporary music in worship or the use of the ESV by parishioners.  So, if he is not railing against the worldliness of CCM artists from 25 years ago, he’s blasting away at modern Bible versions.

Bro. Cloud, in spite of his advocacy of absurd, preference driven sanctification among believers, is also one of the more “thoughtful” KJVO apologists on the internet. He has even gone after Gail Riplinger in the past.

In the article I wish to address, he provides for us his 8 presuppositions for textual criticism that he believes confirms why the KJV is the greatest of all English translations.

Eight Biblical Presuppositions for Approaching the Bible Version Issue

I certainly believe everyone in the world operates in life on the foundation of certain presuppositions. That’s nothing to be ashamed of; but one must consider if his presuppositions hold up to scrutiny. In this case, Bro. Cloud believes if you apply his 8 presuppositions to the discipline of textual criticism, the faithful, Bible-believing Christian will not only conclude modern textual criticism is apostate, but also embrace the KJV as God’s Word alone.

With that in mind, let’s see if his 8 presuppositions for textual criticism hold water and if they sail us safely to the conclusion that the King James Bible is the only reliable English translation without capsizing into the drink:

1. I BELIEVE IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Bible contains everything that we need for faith and practice. It is able to make the believer “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Obviously, then, nothing else is necessary. I do not have to rely on priests or scholars or tradition or extra biblical sources.

So far so good. I would agree with Bro. Cloud: the Bible certainly contains everything that we need for faith and practice. I don’t rely on priests and scholars or any extra biblical sources as an authority over reading the Scripture.

However, I am not sure Bro. Cloud is thinking carefully here. What is Bro. Cloud’s take on Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11 where Paul states how teachers and preachers are given as gifts to the NT Church for the equipping of the saints? Surely Bro. Cloud believes some scholars are necessary to help Christians understand Scripture? He references a book by David Sorenson at the end of his article. How exactly does David Sorenson, who is hardly a competent scholar in these matters, NOT qualify as an extra biblical source for Bro. Cloud’s readers?

Moving along…

2. I BELIEVE IN THE SOUL LIBERTY OF THE BELIEVER, meaning that each believer can know the truth for himself and is responsible to test everything by God’s Word (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:21).  Thus, it is evident that the child of God can make his own decision in the important matter of the Bible text-version issue. I do not ask my readers to depend on me and to follow my teaching; I ask them simply to prove all things and hold fast that which is good and to receive my teaching with all readiness of mind and to search the Scriptures daily whether these things are so.

Again, I would agree with Bro. Cloud. A believer can know the truth for himself and is responsible to test all things by God’s Word. But I would add the one missing element to that point: The regenerating work of the Spirit.

Bro. Cloud tries to get to that in the last presupposition, but it is clear from the biblical verses he cites in support of his second presupposition that the Spirit must be at work first BEFORE a believer can experience “soul liberty,” or the ability to discern spiritual things.

However, anyone familiar with Bro. Cloud knows he rejects the idea of the regenerating work of the Spirit preceding a person’s faith in Christ. A doctrine taught by biblical Calvinists. But ironically, the verses he cites contradict his aversion to Calvinism.

Look for a moment at the first two of Bro. Cloud’s references:

In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were not Christians, but Jews who were more open-minded than the ones in Thessalonica.  Yet it is apparent from the following verses that their readiness to search the Scriptures was due it part to the regenerating power of the Spirit already at work with them. A belief and commitment to Christ was the fruit of that spiritual work. Checking the second passage, 1 Cor. 2:15, 16, the reason why the Corinthians could discern spiritual things is because, as according to 1 Cor. 2:14, the Spirit made them able, or better, gave them the power to discern spiritual things.

Soul liberty certainly exists, but a soul must first be freed by God’s grace before it can exercise the liberty to discern the truth. As we will see in the next point, however, Bro. Cloud doesn’t like that particular view of “soul liberty.”

3. I BELIEVE IN THE SIMPLICITY OF SOUND DOCTRINE (Mat. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Jn. 2:20). If a doctrine is so complicated that the average child of God must lean upon a specialized priest or scholar, that doctrine is not Scriptural. The New Testament faith is not an elitist issue. It was committed to ordinary people.

This is where Bro. Cloud’s presuppositions begin to fracture. In principle, there is a correctness to what he is saying. I would certainly affirm the perspicuity of Scripture, meaning it is clear and understandable to all. But… How exactly is the word “complicated” defined? Bro. Cloud leaves that open to endless speculation. As we will see with his examples, he attempts to squeeze Calvinism into his definition, and then moves on to so-called modern textual criticism.

Honestly though, KJV apologetics are just as complicated and convoluted as either one of his examples. According to Bro. Cloud’s logic, I would have to read David Sorenson’s book, or any number of Bro. Cloud’s writings, in order to know I am supposed to read the King James only. Believe me, KJV onlyism is not a simplistic doctrinal conviction a Christian has the Holy Spirit confirm to him at the outset of his walk with Christ. I was a perfectly happy Christian loving the Lord and growing in grace with my NIV study Bible until someone told me I had the wrong translation and gave me a bunch of books to show me. Some of those books included Bro. Cloud’s crudely printed O Timothy magazines.

Turning to his examples. Bro. Cloud writes:

One example of this is Calvinism. For instance, James White claims that Dave Hunt doesn’t understand Calvinism even though he is an intelligent man, a believer, and he has studied the issue diligently. I am convinced that if something is that complicated it can’t be the truth. (I also believe that Dave Hunt understands Calvinism very well, in spite of what James White claims.)

First of all, what is Bro. Cloud’s take on those fundamentalist Baptists who came to embrace Calvinism apart from James White, or John Piper, or even that dreadful pseudo-fundamentalist, John MacArthur? Doesn’t seem like Calvinism was complicated for these men.

The late Dave Hunt was certainly an intelligent man. However, after he launched his quixotic crusade against Calvinism, it became painfully obvious to everyone that Mr. Hunt took on a subject he so woefully knew nothing about, he not only embarrassed himself, but brought disrepute upon his own ministry.  If one were to read the critiques of his main book attacking Calvinism called What Love is This? he fully tarnished what little reputation he had of being a biblical apologist.davehunt

But Bro. Cloud takes a shot at Calvinism to take a shot at this:

Another example is modern textual criticism. The child of God is required to depend upon the textual scholars, because it is impossible for an ordinary believer to make textual decisions.

Let’s stop right there an examine that comment. Bro. Cloud charges modern textual criticism of requiring believers to depend upon them to make textual decisions, but he over looks the fact that KJV apologetics must be put in this category as well. According to KJV onlyists, an ordinary believer needs to look at all those verse comparison charts, and learn about the development of the TR, and the heresies of Westcott and Hort and so on, to conclude modern versions are heretical and the KJV alone must be trusted. How exactly is this not the same thing Bro. Cloud is condemning?

He then goes on to quote from an introductory work on textual criticism by Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, as an example of what he means about modern textual criticism being hard to understand. Of course, Bro. Cloud fails to tell his readers that Robertson’s book is meant for those folks doing advanced study, not for regular laymen. If he really wanted an honest comparison, he would have cited from James White’s KJV Only Controversy, or the collection of articles written by some Bob Jones affiliated pastors called God’s Word in Our Hands, that looks at textual criticism from a layman’s perspective.

4. I BELIEVE THAT ALL THINGS SHOULD BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 2 Cor. 12:19; Eph. 4:12, 16, 29).  Any biblical research that does not result in spiritual edification is wrongheaded and is disobedience to the plain commands of the Word of God. I can candidly say that none of the many books I have read on modern textual criticism has spiritually edified me. I have found them intellectually interesting, frustrating, and confusing, but never edifying.

What exactly “edifies” a person is in the heart of the beholder. To the contrary, I have read a few books on modern textual criticism and have found them delightful and quite edifying for my faith. They only served to strengthen my love and commitment to God’s Word.

5. I BELIEVE IN THE REALITY OF THE DEVIL (1 Pet. 5:8). One of the devil’s chief goals since the Garden of Eden has been to attack and corrupt the Word of God and to confuse people’s minds in regard to it.

His first words to Eve were, “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1)….
The devil questioned God’s Word (v. 1)….
The devil denied God’s Word (v. 4)….
The devil substituted his own words for God’s Word (v. 5)….

…The child of God must therefore be alert to his activities in this field. It is impossible to understand the Bible text-version issue if one does not understand the devil’s hatred of God’s Word and if one does not make this fact a prominent part of his “textual criticism.”

KJVO apologists usually appeal to the fall of man in Genesis 3 to build their case against modern translations. Even though the account has nothing to do with textual criticism.

They do so in order to show “proof” that heretics are corrupting the Bible when they engage in any meaningful textual criticism which sides with readings found in textual manuscripts other than the ones used to translate the KJV. Their choice of textual readings over those found in the KJV are likened unto Satan tempting Eve by “altering” God’s Word in some fashion or another. From the very beginning, KJV supporters argue, Satan has been attacking God’s Word and thus he continues to do so even in this day with modern textual criticism and the publication of modern translations.

But a couple of problems are present with this line of argumentation.

First, it assumes a recognizable conspiracy has taken place during the transmission of God’s Word. That being, heretical men have intentionally altered the original language manuscripts to promote heresy and those alterations are clearly reflected in modern translations. The problem, however, is that no such altering of the Greek language took place by heretics. Heretics used the same Scriptures as orthodox Christians; they just poured their warped interpretations on the Bible to make it say what they wanted it to say. Very few heretical men tampered with the physical text. Of those individuals we know about, the fact that we know about them demonstrates clearly they did not get away with hiding their corruptions.

A second problem is found with in the citation from Genesis. KJV onlyists use this interchange between the devil and Eve as illustration of corrupted manuscripts. But notice that the devil did not physically change God’s Word. He merely questioned it and put his own spin upon what God originally stated. What the devil actually did to God’s original Words to Adam and Eve is exactly what we have seen heretics historically do to the Bible: He put his interpretation onto them so as to change their true meaning.

6. I BELIEVE IN THE PRE-EMINENCE OF FAITH (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; 14:23). The only way to understand the Word of God is by faith, and faith is based only on God’s Word (Rom. 10:17).

What Bro. Cloud unwittingly suggests with his comment is that faith in the Word of God is blind. That is a typical argument I see with KJV only apologists. If one were to have faith (especially “faith” in their KJV only apologetics), then the only reasonable conclusion would be adherence to the King James Bible as the only reliable English translation.

Yet God would not have His people believing by faith in something that is not there. In other words, a Christian’s faith is affirmed by what we see happening within Church History as God works among His people, including the transmission of His Word.

For instance, I believe in the Exodus because it is recorded in Scripture.  Yet, my belief in the Exodus account is not blind in some unknowable or mythical event that can never be researched. When the subject is researched, my faith in the Exodus event is soundly confirmed, because those events happened in time and space and real history. The same can be said about the flood, the Babylonian exile, the Resurrection of Christ. Thus, when I research textual criticism, rather than seeing the KJV position affirmed as Bro. Cloud thinks it is, I see the biblical text being preserved by God in the very manner those so-called “unbelieving” textual critics say it is.

Additionally, Bro. Cloud confuses the “faith” given by God to believe the truth of God’s Word (what I noted under point #2 above), with this notion of a blind faith as if the two are one and the same. So, if a person “has faith” in God’s Word, he will reject modern textual criticism and embrace the arguments put forth for the exclusivity of the KJV.

Bro. Cloud then goes on to say how modern textual critics don’t have faith in God’s Word and mock the ideas of inspiration and preservation. He also castigates fundamentalists who side with the findings of modern textual criticism as being that kind of faith which doesn’t believe in God or His Word, i.e. the KJV.  What he doesn’t do is show us why accepting modern textual criticism is not being faithful to God.  Bro. Cloud will go on in the last point explaining how modern textual critics were non-fundamentalist unbelievers (certainly “unbelievers” in Bro. Cloud’s mind) and so their work cannot be trusted. But his implication contradicts his last sentence under this point when he writes,

Our faith must therefore be in God, not in man (i.e., not in human scholarship, in the KJV translators, in Erasmus, or in John Burgon or some other defender of the traditional Reformation text).

The inconsistency with that statement is profound. So is Bro. Cloud suggesting Erasmus or John Burgon cannot be trusted like the host of supposedly unbelieving textual critics? If we are not to put our faith in Erasmus, or the KJV translators, or any other defender of the traditional Reformation text, why then do KJV apologists, of which Bro. Cloud is one of the most well-known and prolific in publishing, always appeal to the grand scholarship of the KJV translators or the unanswerable arguments of John Burgon? How exactly does Bro. Cloud justify his exhortation not to trust in scholars like those when KJV polemicists constantly say we must?

7. I BELIEVE IN TREMBLING BEFORE GOD’S WORD (Psa. 138:2; Prov. 30:6; Isa. 66:2; Rev. 22:18-19).  The Scripture is not an ordinary book; it is the Word of the Living God and as such one must exercise extreme caution in handling it. Even to tamper with the words of a human author is a serious matter and there are laws against it, but how much more serious is it to tamper with the words of Almighty God! I have read dozens of books by textual critics, and there simply is no fear of God in their approach to the words of Scripture. The textual critic approach is strictly a matter of human scholarship and the Bible is simply another book.

I too believe in trembling before God’s Word, but how exactly does the “trembling in fear” before God’s Word discount the methods and principles employed by modern textual critics?

For example, modern biblical critics say that when we examine the thousands of preserved manuscripts, the shorter reading is to be preferred because as manuscripts are hand-copied, copyists have the habit of expanding a reading, or attempting to harmonize it with a similar passage in another book, and thus making it longer than what was originally written. How exactly is that idea not “trembling before God’s Word”? How is that “tampering with the words of Almighty God”?

Those things are no more a matter of human scholarship than Erasmus choosing particular readings over others when he compiled his edition of the NT, nor is it any different than when the KJV translators sided to put certain marginal readings from the original into the main text of their translation. Is Bro. Cloud attributing to the KJV translators (men we should not put our “faith” in, as he just stated in the point above) some special knowledge or blessing that no other translators who came after experienced?

8. I BELIEVE IN THE NECESSITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1 Cor. 2:12-16; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).

With his last point, Bro. Cloud lists off a number of important men used in the historical development of biblical, textual criticism. All of them he falsely accuses of being unregenerate and thus unworthy to offer any opinion about the transmission of the biblical text or how to translate it. He also offers more disparaging accusations against any person claiming to be a “fundamentalist” who utilizes their work.

Bro. Cloud writes, “Apart from the Holy Spirit, nothing about the Bible can be properly understood. Unregenerate men who lack the Spirit are not qualified in this field.” That assertion, of course, assumes all those men Bro. Cloud claims were “unregenerate” were truly “unregenerate.” He draws that conclusion about them because in his mind, many of them believed theologically suspicious doctrine and none of them were “fundamentalists.” But if we are to apply his standard of what qualifies a person to engage in textual criticism, there are similar people involved with the production of the KJV.

Erasmus, being probably the biggest example, was a practicing Roman Catholic, and that is in spite of the attempts by KJVO apologists to make him a proto-independent Baptist. What of the men who had to learn Hebrew from unbelieving Jews? They had to learn from unregenerate Christ deniers. Did they learn it properly to determine which Hebrew texts were necessary to translate? The KJV translators were Anglicans, certainly not “fundamentalists,” who practiced infant baptism and held to baptismal regeneration.

Moreover, as I have already noted, Bro. Cloud has stated that we are not to put our faith in men to begin with, even those men who defend the KJV. Yet here, Bro. Cloud gives the impression we need to have faith in those who produced the KJV because they were qualified due in part to their “regeneration.” The inconsistency is astounding.

Bro. Cloud concludes,

Modern textual criticism, which gave us the modern Bible versions, is not founded upon dependency upon faith or the Holy Spirit or any of the aforementioned things. … The Bible is a supernatural and spiritual Book and nothing about it can be known apart from the application of spiritual tools. … Though some evangelicals and fundamentalists who use textual criticism might claim that they also are following the Holy Spirit, the principles of textual criticism are contrary to this.

Bro. Cloud has not proven the validity of his presuppositions. There are a number of necessary variables that must be true in order for them to stand: heretics have corrupted ancient biblical texts, modern era textual critics are unregenerate, principles of modern day textual criticism are not led by the Spirit, and using modern textual critical methods is compromising one’s biblical faith. Though Bro. Cloud would have his readers believe that apostates like Bart Ehrman are produced when they came under the influence of modern textual criticism, such is not the case.

When it comes down to it, the arguments Bro. Cloud has put forth to affirm those presuppositions only serve to make them viciously circular.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [4]

maherIs Christianity Egocentric?

We return once again to our critique of Chaz Bufe and his 20 reasons to abandon Christianity.

The fourth reason he claims we must abandon Christianity is that it is extremely egocentric. Only the first two paragraphs are relevant for our discussion here, so I will not cite the point in its entirety:

4. Christianity is extremely egocentric. The deep egocentrism of Christianity is intimately tied to its reliance on fear. In addition to the fears of the devil and hell, Christianity plays on another of humankind’s most basic fears: death, the dissolution of the individual ego. Perhaps Christianity’s strongest appeal is its promise of eternal life. While there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, most people are so terrified of death that they cling to this treacly promise insisting, like frightened children, that it must be true. Nietzsche put the matter well: “salvation of the soul” plain words, the world revolves around me.” It’s difficult to see anything spiritual in this desperate grasping at straws – this desperate grasping at the illusion of personal immortality.

Another manifestation of the extreme egotism of Christianity is the belief that God is intimately concerned with picayune aspects of, and directly intervenes in, the lives of individuals. If God, the creator and controller of the universe, is vitally concerned with your sex life, you must be pretty d*** important. Many Christians take this particular form of egotism much further and actually imagine that God has a plan for them, or that God directly talks to, directs, or even does favors for them. If one ignored the frequent and glaring contradictions in this supposed divine guidance, and the dead bodies sometimes left in its wake, one could almost believe that the individuals making such claims are guided by God. But one can’t ignore the contradictions in and the oftentimes horrible results of following such “divine guidance.” As “Agent Mulder” put it (perhaps paraphrasing Thomas Szasz) in a 1998 X-Files episode, “When you talk to God it’’s prayer, but when God talks to you it’s schizophrenia. . . . God may have his reasons, but he sure seems to employ a lot of psychotics to carry out his job orders.”

One has to wonder if this particular point is Chaz’s attempt at a little comedic irony. Here we have a self-centered, egotistic atheist, whose egotism will become even more manifest as we move along through the remainder of his reasons to abandon Christianity, who is complaining that Christians are egocentric.

If you are claiming that Christianity is to be abandon because of all the stated problematic reasons, then from my vantage point as a Christian, I would think that you, the critic, should have in mind some alternative worldview with which to replace the Christian faith. There is really no sense in criticizing a belief system unless you are convinced you have a superior belief system with which to replace it.

I we can already guess from Chaz’s website, he believes people should embrace anarchy, communism, and free sex without consequence. But how exactly is that life philosophy not egocentric? It is purely egotism because Chaz wants to live a lifestyle that fits his personal desires and whims. Sure, those whims may not necessarily have some spiritual connection to a god, at least in Chaz’s mind, and he would argue his worldview allows the individual to choose his or her own desires without having to submit to any established rules or standards, but he is just as egocentric as the Christians he despises.

Setting aside the sheer irrationality and unworkablity of this belief system for the moment, regardless of what Chaz may believe, his is a philosophy strictly invented to serve the individual self. Or put another way, it is egocentric. He cannot escape that fact.

There really is not much here to comment upon, but Chaz does offer us a couple of thoughts.

First is his citation of Fredrich Nietzsche, the 19th century philosopher and progenitor of nihilism. Nietzsche was raised in a Lutheran home and his father was a Lutheran minister. When Nietzsche got older, he despised his Christian upbringing and became an angry, anti-theist as he exposed himself to the philosophies of modernism.  If the internet had been around, he would have a blog blasting Fundamentalists and homeschoolers, as well as a Youtube channel hosting sophomoric videos explainging how Jesus never existed.

He developed a philosophy called “nihilism,” the idea that all values are baseless, that nothing is knowable or can be communicated, and that life itself is meaningless. Which, if Nietzsche is correct and that nothing is knowable or can be communicated, how then are we to understand his written works? His very own worldview? How exactly are they communicated? What about Chaz and his anarchist writings and worldview?

In order for a belief system to have merit, it has to be logical and workable. In other words, it has to provide a credible means to understand our existence, interact with reality, and answer the big questions in life like, “Why am I here?” “What is life about?” “How should I live?” Nihilism is irrational because it is unworkable. No one can honestly live in the real world, interact with real people, and be a genuine nihilist. A nihilist doesn’t even have a starting point to present its own ideas if no meaning or value can be assigned to anything. It’s like the scientific and medical plausibility of zombies.

Nietzsche became most known for his “God is Dead” philosophy. In his book, The Gay Science, he presents a “madman” who tells a group of town folks that we have killed God. Nietzsche, of course, didn’t believe God had actually died, because he didn’t believe He even existed in the first place. He was referring to the belief in God. In Nietzsche’s mind, our modern, “rational” world made God unbelievable. Society had progressed beyond a need for God, so as we became more cultured and more progressive, God died. His philosophy saw a resurgence of supporters in the 1960s and “God is dead” became a mantra for many leftist radicals who wished to over turn society.

That in turn leads us to the second thought we can take away from Chaz and his fourth point. He cites a quote from a X-files episode in which a character apparently disparages God by suggesting religious people are psychotics carrying out His orders. In other words, those who believe in God are prone to act violently and do terrible things to others. If the religious believers are crazy, then God must be crazy. I am sure Chaz would cite as examples witch burning, the Inquisition, and the current Islamic jihad as if all those things are one and the same with biblical, Christian faith.

Again, as I mentioned before, Chaz suffers from historical myopia – a blindness affecting the eyes of religious critics like ex-fundy bloggers who do not wish to criticize their own atheism. You see, Nietzsche’s nihilism leads to some horrifying logical conclusions, especially when they are allowed to play themselves out on a national level. Nihilism, in its practical form, believes that the destruction of existing political and social institutions is necessary for future improvement. Historically, that is exactly the kind of thinking driving the Marxists and Nazis during the early parts of the 20th century. The last time I checked the figures, just those two groups of non-religious nihilists, were responsible for the murder of millions of people, far surpassing the kind of crimes against humanity performed by the occasional religious psychotic. In short, we could safely say they were egocentric.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [3]

conmanIs Christianity Dishonest?

I continue my review of Chaz Bufe’s 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

This time around, we look at Chaz’s third reason for abandoning Christianity: the charge that Christianity is dishonest. I won’t quote the entire argument because the first paragraph is just a mindless rant rehashing his first two reasons and then he moves into why he thinks Christianity is dishonest:

3. Christianity is based upon dishonesty … How deep dishonesty runs in Christianity can be gauged by one of the most popular Christian arguments for belief in God: Pascal’s wager. This “wager” holds that it’s safer to “believe” in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist, and if it does, it will save “believers” and condemn nonbelievers to hell after death. This is an appeal to pure cowardice. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search for truth. Instead, it’s an appeal to abandon honesty and intellectual integrity, and to pretend that lip service is the same thing as actual belief. If the patriarchal God of Christianity really exists, one wonders how it would judge the cowards and hypocrites who advance and bow to this particularly craven “wager.”

In my opinion, his point should be re-titled “Christianity is based upon cowardice.” Chaz doesn’t honestly deal with anything dishonest with Christianity at all. I am guessing he means “intellectual dishonesty?”

pascalAny how, I find his comment that Pascal’s wager is one of the most popular arguments for belief in God rather amusing. Pascal’s wager? Is he kidding? Who has he heard using that argument? Maybe there are some Christian radio hosts? Maybe a priest?

I have never used that argument in any evangelistic apologetic encounter in my life, even when I was a young skull full of college age mush hassling sinners in a laundry mat with my Evangelism Explosion presentation. Nor, have I ever heard anyone use that argument in any fashion whatsoever either on the radio or from the pulpit – at least as a serious argument for why a person should believe in God. I haven’t even heard any of the most diehard classic apologists use that argument. I find it amazing, like when they discovered the coelacanth,  that Chaz has actually spoken with Christians (if he is telling us the truth) who use Pascal’s wager as an apologetic argument.

Chaz’s ridicule of Christians invoking Pascal’s wager as the most popular arguments for Christian belief again demonstrates his self-imposed ignorance about what he is criticizing. Obviously he must not be too well read on Christian apologetics. Has he even read Greg Bahnsen? Listened to his debates with well known atheists? How about James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries? He has a lot of apologetic material on a variety of topics and I know with certainty he never has raised Pascal’s wager in a debate before. What about Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries? He has a weekly radio program and an excellent website. I take issue with his classic apologetics, but by and large, his ministry is outstanding and he has never spoken of Pascal’s wager. At least to my knowledge.

 Now interestingly, in his haste to make Christians look as though they are slack-jawed, glassy-eyed dullards who give the appearance of being infested by brain slugs from outer space, Chaz makes some interesting comments in his paragraph above. He writes, “This “wager” holds that it’s safer to “believe” in God (as if belief were volitional!) than not to believe, because God might exist …”

As if belief were “volitional.” Let us pause a moment and soak that statement in. I am not certain Chaz realizes the face plant he is about to suffer; but that is to my advantage.

I checked my American Heritage Dictionary, the words belief and believe are defined as follows:

Belief, n. 1. Trust or confidence. 2. A conviction or opinion. 3. A tenet or a body of tenets.

Believe, v. 1. To accept as true or real. 2. To credit with veracity; have confidence in; trust. 3. To expect or suppose; think.

The word volition is defined as follows:

Volition, n. 1. An act of willing, choosing, or deciding. 2. The power or capability of choosing; will. 3. A conscious choice; decision.

There’s a couple things that could be going on here.

Perhaps Chaz is of the “belief” that belief, particularly religious belief, and the the act of deciding to believe something is true, are direct opposite. He isn’t quite clear as to what he “believes” with the distinction he makes between the two concepts, but he goes on to argue there is actual belief that pursues truth which will not abandon intellectual integrity. So he separates “belief” from intellectual integrity.

Or it may be that he is attempting to be consistent with his atheism. Can evolved, complex star dust that moved from being inanimate to animate entities, really have true “volition” as our definition defines it? You know, evolved, complex star dust having the capability to exercise will and make conscious decisions?  Maybe Chaz sees the absurdity in that so he is acknowledging the stupidity of such a notion.

Whatever the case, in Chaz’s worldview, I am sure Jesus-hating anarchy involves genuine belief that pursues truth with intellectual integrity. If Chaz truly believes that, however, he needs to be reminded of some comments from fellow religious hating atheists. Thoughtful, truly intellectual atheists are rather forthright to admit their adherence to a “faith,” or what Chaz would consider “belief.”

Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, writing in an old review of Carl Sagan’s anti-supernatural trope filled screed, Demon Haunted World, acknowledges:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to the understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science – in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. It is not that the method and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. [Cited in The Divine Challenge by John Byl, pg. 287]

And naturalistic philosopher, Thomas Nagel like wise states,

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God. [Cited in The Divine Challenge, pg. 288]

So, in Chaz’s understanding are those guys who are quite candid as to the irrationality of their convictions dishonest cowards? When we really consider the facts, who is being dishonest? Bible believing Christians or materialistic, anarchist atheists?

Ferguson

fergusonAfter watching the wanton destruction of the neighborhood of Ferguson, Missouri, I was going to let loose with a ranting post on the whole situation, but thought better of it.

Not that I believe my comments are merely emotional laden keyboard rhetoric that add heat rather than light, but I don’t wish to deal with the simpletons with their accusations of “racism” and say that I have no room to genuinely offer an opinion as a white guy. Unless, of course, it is one of those groveling confession of manufactured culture-shame that renounces my “white privilege.”

I will say this, however: It is grieves me, almost to the point of despair, that generations of black Americans have been taught to believe by their leaders, as well as a political party, that their fellow white Americans are racists at heart and there is nothing they can do to better themselves in our society because of that racism.  Even more distressing is that this deceiving spirit has so blinded their minds to hate law enforcement that they readily accept the testimony of a lying punk that said a police officer executed an innocent black teenager in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, in front of numerous eye-witnesses, for the minor infraction of jay walking. The scenario is from the realm of sheer fantasy.

That stated, I did want to highlight an excellent podcast that addresses these issues, particularly from the point of view of law enforcement. Tony Miano, known for his street evangelism, is a retired LA county sheriff’s deputy and he pulled together a number of active officers, along with some others who are now retired, to get their perspective as Christian men on dealing with the situation in Ferguson.

A Round Table Discussion with Christian Police Officers

Also consider Tony’s article that expands upon the podcast as to how pastors are to respond to animosity toward law enforcement.

Why Many Police Officers Won’t Enter the Doors of Your Church, Pastor

 

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [2]

Does Christianity Prey on the Innocent?

I come again to my review and critique of Chaz Bufe’s

20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

Chaz second reason Christianity must be abandoned is because Christians prey on children. I will let him explain himself:

2. Christianity preys on the innocent. If Christian fear-mongering were directed solely at adults, it would be bad enough, but Christians routinely terrorize helpless children through grisly depictions of the endless horrors and suffering they’’ll be subjected to if they don’t live good Christian lives. Christianity has darkened the early years of generation after generation of children, who have lived in terror of dying while in mortal sin and going to endless torment as a result. All of these children were trusting of adults, and they did not have the ability to analyze what they were being told; they were simply helpless victims, who, ironically, victimized following generations in the same manner that they themselves had been victimized. The nearly 2000 years of Christian terrorizing of children ranks as one of its greatest crimes. And it’s one that continues to this day.

First off, what is the point with Chaz’s use of the word “innocent?”  Innocence implies being blameless for a crime or some other guilt, which would further imply the application of a moral category.  According to Chaz’s atheistic views of the world, what could a child possibly be “innocent” from? What sort of guilt would a child bear? For someone who more that likely doesn’t believe in moral absolutes, I wonder if Chaz even stops and considers the inconsistency with the words and concepts he uses to bash Christianity. Something tells me he has not.

Moving along anyways,

In order to back up his claim of Christians terrorizing children for the last 2000 years, Chaz proceeds to quote from some obscure, 19th century Catholic children’s book that no one has even heard of, let alone read from. The children’s book highlights sermon instruction from a Rev. J. Furniss who provides some picturesque descriptions of sinners boiling alive in the flames of hell.   And then, if that were not enough, Chaz digs up some old Irish Vicar-General who recommends the book as being beneficial for children.

Wow. Is this the best argument Chaz can provide for slandering Christians as baby skinners? I mean, come on, at least throw in a mention of the Children crusades when muddle-headed Catholics believed God would use innocent children to destroy the Muslim hordes in Jerusalem and sent their youth to their certain doom in a hair-brained scheme to fight Turks. You disappoint me Chaz.

But what does Chaz offer to replace the Christian terrorizing of children? How would he remedy this victimization of poor, innocent babies? Kill all Christians in a wild anarchist frenzy? It is one thing to criticize, it is quite another to criticize and offer solutions. Chaz just criticizes – and a pathetic criticism as well.

I imagine, however, from what we learn from the rest of Chaz’s website, he would probably suggest an anarchist philosophy, mixed with atheistic communism, as a replacement for Christianity.If that is the case, as I am sure Chaz may well gladly attest, am I to believe atheistic anarchist communist would never, ever terrorize innocent children who trust the adults to look after them and have no ability to analyze what they are taught?

You see, Chaz, like all egocentric atheists who dish out the anti-religious snark, but hardly offer any real world, workable solutions, suffers from what I like to call historical myopia.

Chaz carries on about how Christians terrorize the young minds of trusting children by quoting some long forgotten children’s religious book from over a century ago, but forgets how true and living atheistic communism within the last century turned the youth culture into an organized mass of murdering thugs.

For example, when Pol Pot took over Cambodia after he graduated from the schools of Paris where he studied such atheistic heroes like Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he quickly mobilized the youth of that country to implement his atheistic anarchy with horrific results. Now, would not Chaz agree that turning trusting and innocent Cambodian youth into roving gangs of tyrannical, jackbooted murdering thugs is a clear example of preying on the innocent? Who can forget the scene in the movie The Killing Fields, where Haing S. Ngor’s character has his little tomato plant pulled up and stomped to pieces by a 13 year old girl? And what about the images of village folk being smothered to death with plastic bags tied around their heads by bunches of teenage soldiers?

We could also mention Stalin’s Russian and the current state of North Korea, states who promoted atheistic philosophy to national levels, but I won’t bore my readers.

I will grant that people in the name of Christianity have said and done stupid things. Maybe they could be guilty of preying on innocent minds, but biblical Christianity does not teach such brainwashing as Chaz would say. Again, this is a fine example where Chaz needs to deal with real Christianity, not cartoon pictures of it.

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [1]

Is Christianity Based on Fear?

screamI recently introduced my readers to Chaz Bufe, conspiratorial anarchist and religion bashing pamphleteer. Chaz wrote a gut-wrenching indictment against the Christian faith,

20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity.

There is nothing particularly new with the 20 reasons Chaz offers as to why we need to abandon Christianity.  He repeats the standard, cliched criticisms any well-read Christian has already encountered years ago.

Moreover, Chaz’s “reasons,” if we even grant him that word to describe his points, are not too terribly thoughtful. It is painfully clear with the glaring absence of meaningful interaction with any serious Christians that Chaz is in a blindfolded pinata game swinging wildly at strawmen caricatures of Christians, not actual Christianity.

Now before I begin with evaluating his first point, it may be helpful to clarify some terminology.  Is it fair of me to describe Chaz and his atheistic anarchism as “foolish?” Sounds a bit harsh to some, but I believe I am aptly defining my terms and I can defend my assertion.

First off, rather than playing fantasy games of pretend neutrality where I insist I am an unbiased person as most atheists do, I admit my bias up front. I am a Bible-believing Christian who uses God’s revelation as my ultimate starting point for evaluating my world and perceiving reality. I will even go further and state that Chaz does the same as well, even though he will vehemently deny it.

But as much as Chaz, or any atheist for that matter, wishes to carry on about being an unbiased free thinker, he doesn’t have any justification for his objections against my Christian worldview unless he steals principles of judgment from my worldview in order to declare it worthless and in need of abandonment. In other words, a person cannot make appeals to “logic” and “reason” unless there is something setting the rules for logic and reason that exists outside the person.

Chaz the anarchist atheist has no explanation for his ability to use logic and reason. He just blissfully makes unwarranted absolute declarations that Christianity is illogical and unreasonable all the while insisting there are no absolutes. Nothing is more amusing than a know-it-all who denies absolutes who absolutely believes I am an idiot for believing in the absolutes of Christianity.

Yet more importantly, the Bible declares Chaz’s Christian bashing as being foolish. God’s Word distinguishes between the wise and the foolish. Wisdom, as defined in scripture, begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10).

Basically, true wisdom is a God-centered worldview of a person who recognizes his Creator, submits to His authority, and lives his life according to God’s revealed principles as outlined in Scripture. A fool, on the other hand, rejects all knowledge of God and refuses to live according to His precepts.

The key passage for this truism is Psalm 14:1, The fool has said in his heart, no God. Some translations add the words “there is” immediately before “no God,” but those words are not in the Hebrew text. The point is not that the fool has honestly, with a sincere heart, searched around looking for God, found no evidence satisfying his inquiry, and then determined there is no God. The fool knows there is a God, but rejects God, desiring to have nothing to do with Him. What Paul describes as suppressing the truth (Romans 1:20ff.)

So with these things in mind, let us consider Chaz’s first reason to abandon Christianity, Christianity is based on fear. He writes:

1. Christianity is based on fear. While today there are liberal clergy who preach a gospel of love, they ignore the bulk of Christian teachings, not to mention the bulk of Christian history. Throughout almost its entire time on Earth, the motor driving Christianity has been – —in addition to the fear of death – —fear of the devil and fear of hell. One can only imagine how potent these threats seemed prior to the rise of science and rational thinking, which have largely robbed these bogeys [sic] of their power to inspire terror.

But even today, the existence of the devil and hell are cardinal doctrinal tenets of almost all Christian creeds, and many fundamentalist preachers still openly resort to terrorizing their followers with lurid, sadistic portraits of the suffering of nonbelievers after death. This is not an attempt to convince through logic and reason; it is not an attempt to appeal to the better nature of individuals; rather, it is an attempt to whip the flock into line through threats, through appeals to a base part of human nature – —fear and cowardice.

darknessI am taking it that the type of fear Chaz has in mind is that psychotic fear probably smacked into him by nuns at his Catholic church who believed he had an impure thought. Nuns smacking you after misreading your mind can certainly be a fearful thing.

Or perhaps he is thinking about the sort of fear that swirls around in the theological cesspools of Independent, Fundamental Baptist churches. You know, the delusional fears we see played out before us in various Chick tracts and Crusader comics in which a young gal who plays D&D becomes a devil worshiper.

I remember the backward masking craze in the 80s. All of those rock and roll bands singing about drugs and women were really demonically inspired, and if you knew how to rig your record player so as to spin backward, out of those exact same songs would come voices telling you to worship Satan, commit fornication, snort cocaine, or do any number of evil, unwholesome activities. I used to be fearful of accidentally hearing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” because if you heard that song backwards, the devil in Freddy Mercury’s distorted voice told you to smoke marijuana (or maybe it was “eat an iguana”), and even though the only illicit drugs I had ever taken in my entire life was a pinch of my grandma’s chewing tobacco, I was certain if I heard that song just once, I’d instantly become a pothead.

Another example is Bill Gothard. He was notorious for spreading around spiritual paranoia, and one of his well-known targets was cabbage patch kids. He used to tell the story about a girl who received a cabbage patch kid doll for her birthday, and shortly after receiving the doll, she loses her appetite and refuses to eat.

pureevilDays go by without her so much as drinking a glass of milk and the parents get worried and take her to the doctor. He can’t find anything physically wrong with her, but notices she is carrying her CPK doll with her to the visit. The swift thinking doctor asks her what the doll’s name is, and the kid responds by giving him some funny sounding foreigner name that turns out to be the Hindu goddess of famine. “That’s the reason!,” exclaims the doctor (who just so happens to be a Bill Gothard trained Bible institute instructor. How providential is that!), “The demon of famine has binded its spiritual authority to your daughter causing her to starve. You must burn this doll immediately to break the curse!” And of course, once the reluctant parents, ignoring the pleading cries of their traumatized daughter who doesn’t want to give up her doll, commit it to the purifying flames of a trash barrel, the kid gets her appetite back.

If that is the kind of fear Chaz has in mind, I’d be more than happy to join him on stage at one of his blues festivals and renounce that superstitious nonsense along with him.

Yet, a bunch of goofy people who claim to be Christians, but teach foolish things about cabbage patch dolls and listening to CCM, is a far cry from what the Christian faith actually teaches about fear. The Scriptures are clear: we are to only fear God, as I noted above, which is a healthy fear all humanity should cultivate. (See also Deuteronomy 6:2, 13, 24; Psalm 2:11, 33:18; Ecclesiastes 12:13,14). If Chaz, or any atheist for that matter, fools himself into believing such fear is enslaving and causes suffering, then so be it. But in truth, it is a lack of the fear of God that is dangerous and ultimately destructive.

You see: Chaz doesn’t let on to his readers that atheists have their own fears, the biggest one being death. That is the reason he so hates the doctrine of eternal punishment. Atheists are men and women created in the image of God. They know they are law breakers against a holy God and that judgment awaits them. Oh, he may be cocky; like a lot of atheists who smugly dismiss my analysis here and insist that they are not at all afraid of my silly sky wizard man or whatever derisive, blasphemous term the come up with to speak against their Creator in a lame attempt to excuse themselves.

It’s usually when death is imminent that all the fear begins to manifest. They’ll get angry and curse God, but it doesn’t bring relief from the fear. Sometimes the anger really intensifies when it is pointed out to them by the theist that according to their own worldview, they are nothing but matter in motion — evolved stardust —  and when they terminate, they will simply shut down and there is no consciousness afterwards. Why the anxiety?

I encountered such behavior among a group of atheists a few years ago when a well-known atheist blogger died suddenly from a massive heart attack. I wrote about it a bit HERE. When the grieving friends were told that a meat machine made of evolved stardust basically ceased functioning, they became enraged.

They wanted so badly to keep their memory of him alive. They tried to take solace in the anger they have toward eternal judgment by claiming he wasn’t being tortured somewhere or forced to worship a tyrannical god. There was a lot of faith in those words. Faith and fear. But regrettably, it was a blind faith with no certainty, but the fear was very much real.

So Chaz can complain about Christianity imposing fear upon its adherents, and certainly there is something to say about the superstitious anxieties produced in the fever swamps of fundamentalists, but those are fears that will evaporate when the true light of the Gospel and God’s Word shines in the hearts of those misdirected and disillusioned believers. However, true fear that lurks in the shadows of Chaz’s heart not only enslaves him, but will rise up to condemn him when he stands before the God in whose face he shakes his fist.