Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace podcast: pluralism, relativism and postmodernism at the university

The latest episode of the Cold Case Christianity podcast is useful to help parents understand what awaits their children at the university.

Details:

In this episode of the Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast, J. Warner examines four popular misconceptions and misstatements about the nature of objective truth, tolerance and our over-reliance on science. If there are no objective truths (or they can’t be known) there is little reason to examine the truth about God. We need to get to the truth about truth before we can ever know the truth about anything else.

The MP3 file is here.

He has it down to 30 minutes now, so if you thought one hour was too long, you’re in luck. I liked the one-hour format better, but the new podcast series is really professional.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , ,

J.P. Moreland asks: does truth matter when choosing a religion?

Dr. J.P. Moreland

Dr. J.P. Moreland

This lecture contains Moreland’s famous “Wonmug” illustration. Ah, memories! If you don’t know who Wonmug is, you can find out in this lecture.

The MP3 file is here.

Topics:

  • Is it intolerant to think that one religion is true?
  • Is it more important to be loving and accepting of people regardless of worldview?
  • How should Christians approach the question of religious pluralism?
  • How does a person choose a religion anyway?
  • Who is Wonmug, and would you like to be like Wonmug?
  • Is it enough that a belief “works for you”, or do you want to believe the truth?
  • Can all the religions in the world be true?
  • Is it wise to pick and choose what you like from all the different religions?
  • Is it possible to investigate which religion is true? How?
  • Which religions are testable for being true or false?
  • How you can test Christianity historically (very brief)

This is the most fun lecture to listen to, you should listen to it, if you like fun.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Massachusetts town goes after Christian college over sexual morality

Salem, MA Mayor Kimberley Driscoll

Salem, MA Mayor Kimberley Driscoll

From Campus Reform.

Excerpt:

The town of Salem, Mass., has pitted itself against Gordon College after the president of the private Christian school added his name to a public letter to President Obama asking for a religious exemption from a planned federal mandate.

The expected executive order would force any organization receiving federal funds, including religiously based organizations, to hire people whose sexual conduct may not fall in line with their beliefs. Gordon says the mandate would be an “infringement on religious liberty” and “the rights of faith-based institutions to establish a set of standards and expectations for their community.”

Gordon’s statement of faith and conduct defines marriage as the “lifelong one-flesh union of one man and one woman.” It also clarifies that the school is against “homosexual acts,” not “same-sex orientation,” and claims that it expects its students and faculty to “refrain from any sexual intercourse—heterosexual or homosexual; premarital or extramarital—outside of the marriage covenant.”

“Signing the letter was in keeping with our decades-old conviction that, as an explicitly Christian institution, Gordon should set the conduct expectations for members of our community,” Gordon College President Michael Lindsay said in a statement. “Nothing has changed in our position.”

[...]It was Lindsay’s signature that prompted Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll to publicly chastise the school, calling the small Christian college’s longstanding policies of expressly forbidding homosexual practices “offensive” in a statement released by the city. Driscoll went on to say that the city was revoking its contract with the college over the management of the city’s Old Town Hall facility.

“While I respect your rights to embed religious values on a private college campus, religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others and cannot be extended into a publicly owned facility or any management contract or a publicly owned facility, like Old Town Hall,” she said.

So the mayor has decided that she should punish Christians because they have beliefs that are different than hers. She is forcing her beliefs on Lindsay, and if he then agreed with her, she would remove the punishment. Isn’t it amazing how secular people are able to accuse others of doing something that they are doing themselves, and their heads don’t explode from the illogic?

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Is Mormonism supported by evidence from science, philosophy and history?

This post presents evidence against Mormonism/LDS in three main areas. The first is in the area of science. The second is in the area of philosophy. And the third is in the area of history.

The scientific evidence

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed. But this is at odds with modern cosmology.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It is based on several lines of evidence, and is broadly compatible with Genesis. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[...]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

Philosophical problems

Always Have a Reason contrasts two concepts of God in Mormonism: Monarchotheism and Polytheism. It turns out that although Mormonism is actually a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism. In Mormonism, humans can become God and then be God of their own planet. So there are many Gods in Mormonism, not just one.

Excerpt:

[T]he notion that there are innumerable contingent “primal intelligences” is central to this Mormon concept of god (P+M, 201; Beckwith and Parrish, 101). That there is more than one god is attested in the Pearl of Great Price, particularly Abraham 4-5. This Mormon concept has the gods positioned to move “primal intelligences along the path to godhood” (Beckwith and Parrish, 114). Among these gods are other gods which were once humans, including God the Father. Brigham Young wrote, “our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on…” (Brigham Young, The Seer, 132, quoted in Beckwith and Parrish, 106).

[...]The logic of the Mormon polytheistic concept of God entails that there is an infinite number of gods. To see this, it must be noted that each god him/herself was helped on the path to godhood by another god. There is, therefore, an infinite regress of gods, each aided on his/her path to godhood by a previous god. There is no termination in this series. Now because this entails an actually infinite collection of gods, the Mormon polytheistic concept of deity must deal with all the paradoxes which come with actually existing infinities…

The idea of counting up to an actual infinite number of things by addition (it doesn’t matter what kind of thing it is) is problematic. See here.

More:

Finally, it seems polytheistic Mormonism has a difficulty at its heart–namely the infinite regress of deity.

[...]Each god relies upon a former god, which itself relies upon a former god, forever. Certainly, this is an incoherence at the core of this concept of deity, for it provides no explanation for the existence of the gods, nor does it explain the existence of the universe.

Now let’s see the historical evidence against Mormonism.

The historical evidence

J. Warner Wallace explains how the “Book of Abraham”, a part of the Mormon Scriptures, faces historical difficulties.

The Book of Abraham papyri are not as old as claimed:

Mormon prophets and teachers have always maintained that the papyri that was purchased by Joseph Smith was the actual papyri that was created and written by Abraham. In fact, early believers were told that the papyri were the writings of Abraham.

[...]There is little doubt that the earliest of leaders and witnesses believed and maintained that these papyri were, in fact the very scrolls upon which Abraham and Joseph wrote. These papyri were considered to be the original scrolls until they were later recovered in 1966. After discovering the original papyri, scientists, linguists, archeologists and investigators (both Mormon and non-Mormon) examined them and came to agree that the papyri are far too young to have been written by Abraham. They are approximately 1500 to 2000 years too late, dating from anywhere between 500 B.C. (John A. Wilson, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p. 70.) and 60 A.D. If they papyri had never been discovered, this truth would never have come to light. Today, however, we know the truth, and the truth contradicts the statements of the earliest Mormon leaders and witnesses.

The Book of Abraham papyri do not claim what Joseph Smith said:

In addition to this, the existing papyri simply don’t say anything that would place them in the era related to 2000BC in ancient Egypt. The content of the papyri would at least help verify the dating of the document, even if the content had been transcribed or copied from an earlier document. But the papyri simply tell us about an ancient burial ritual and prayers that are consistent with Egyptian culture in 500BC. Nothing in the papyri hints specifically or exclusively to a time in history in which Abraham would have lived.

So there is a clear difference hear between the Bible and Mormonism, when it comes to historical verification.

Further study

There is a very good podcast featuring J. Warner Wallace that summarizes some other theological problems with Mormonism that I blogged about before. And if you want a nice long PDF to print out and read at lunch (which is what I did with it) you can grab this PDF by Michael Licona, entitled “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock“.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does holding to liberal social views automatically make you tolerant?

WARNING: This post contains strong language taken from actual messages sent by angry people. Reader discretion is advised.

I just want to quote some of the insults and death threats that social conservative Matt Walsh received. (H/T Melissa)

Excerpt:

To my leftwing friends:

Last night, someone sent me an email threatening to murder me because they disagree with my opinions. It read, in part:

“F*ck you… I will find a way to kill you. Make no god d*mn mistake, you filth.”

Concise. Eloquent. And now on file with the state police.

After I reported the threat to law enforcement, I didn’t pay it much mind. But then, a few minutes ago, I received this message from someone else:

“Matt, you are so filled with hate in everything you write. You are part of the reason why conservative teabaggers in this country are nothing but hate mongers and bigots. Do you want to know why I’m a “liberal”? Because liberals know how to make a point without being hateful and spiteful.”(Emphasis mine).

I laughed quite heartily when I read that. Perfect timing. Mere hours after someone called me ‘filth’ and announced their plan to end my existence all because of my beliefs, I’m informed that these are precisely the people who ‘know how to make a point without being hateful and spiteful.’

At first I dismissed this claim and concluded, as I often do, that the person who said it couldn’t possibly be serious. Does he really not notice the hate and hostility pouring like sewage out of his own ideological camp? Does he really think that hate is somehow a ‘conservative’ thing? No, I thought. Nobody is that oblivious.

Actually, kids on college campuses are being educated in such a one-sided way so that this kind of philosophical fail is not only common but almost universal. Brendan Eich lost his job for making a tiny pro-marriage donation. Pro-abortion terrorists vandalize pro-life displays in the name of “free speech”. Sometimes the pro-abortion activists go as far as assaulting you. Sometimes the gay activists just try to murder you outrightwith guns. Many people on the left have been indoctrinated to believe this sort of intolerance of others is logically consistent and even virtuous. They shout down any attempt to engage them with any view that is not their own.

More Matt:

“Matt, f*ck you. I seriously hope you die.”

F*ck you and your entire website you f*cking douche. I have known I am transgender for a long time… You are very sick in the head and I hope you rot in hell. I will pray Lucifer himself finds you.

“Hey f*ck you. Die. That’s all.”

“You’re a f*cking bigot piece of sh*t…”

“I’ve decided that I’m going to block any friend who reposts your trash on Facebook. You are the worst human being on the planet and the world would be better if you weren’t part of it.”

“Dear Matt, you’re horrible. Kill yourself.”

“Oh, like you don’t already know you’re a piece of sh*t. F*ck you.”

“Matt, I saw a Tweet that said you’re a flaming bag of dogsh*t on the doorstep of the internet. I thought it was great but kind of insulting to dog sh*t.”

“Matt, shut the f*ck up with your hate and homophobia. You are the biggest assh*le I’ve ever seen. Go crawl into a f*cking hole somewhere and die.”

“Anytime someone retweets or shares your posts I die a little inside. Your like a cancer on the internet. You’re an embarrassment bro. Seriously, you’re the worst.”

Look, see? Hatred.

Loathing, despising, detesting, hating.

Not just hatred of my ideas or my actions, but hatred of me personally. A boiling, ungodly rage. A yearning to see me burn in Hell for all eternity. Malicious feelings targeted at me, the human being. A desire to see me dead, hurt, dehumanized. A wish to kill me because of my ideology.

Hatred. Let me assure you that it is a huge problem in the liberal ranks. I experience it everyday. Before you spend another minute lamenting the perceived ‘hatred’ of conservative bloggers and media personalities, I suggest you look into your own souls. I have seen and felt the cold, stinging hatred that lives there, and it is surely the nastiest and most brutal sort.

Personally, I think that this is part and parcel of the embrace of secularism. Look, let’s call a spade a spade. If you think there is no God, then you can’t ground morality rationally, you can’t ground moral duties rationally, you can’t ground human rights rationally, you can’t ground human dignity rationally. Your purpose in life is to have a good time. If someone tells you that you are doing wrong and harming others, then there are no restraints – within the worldview of atheism – on what you can do to stop them from even disapproving of your selfish, destructive behavior.

Matt offers this conclusion about his real motives for standing tall for traditional moral boundaries:

Sometimes I get very angry at the legions of progressive nihilists who stand as staunch advocates for some of the greatest evils mankind has ever witnessed (like abortion, for instance), but beyond anger I always feel pity. I believe that you’ll destroy yourself with your philosophy before you destroy anyone else, and I sincerely wish for you to avoid that fate.

If I truly think that my views are correct, and that the rejection of neo-liberal cultural dogma will lead you to greater joy and fulfillment in life, ultimately bringing you out of the darkness and into the light of truth, why would I try to help you in that process if I hated you?

I wouldn’t. I’d let you drown and die. I’d watch and relish the sight.

That’s how a hateful person would handle the situation. He’d keep his opinions to himself. He wouldn’t bother. He’d let society run headfirst over the cliff, and he wouldn’t care as long as he personally remains standing at the top. The real hateful conservatives and Christians are the ones who say nothing. They see the same truth that I do, and that so many others do, yet they have no interest in opening anyone else’s eyes to it. In fact, they are examples of something worse than hate: indifference.

[...]Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.

What we are seeing now is the resurgence of a worldview of selfishness that will lead to barbarism against the weak. You can see it in the acceptance of abortion, no-fault divorce, gay marriage, and so on. There is no reason to think that it will slow down unless those of us who have rationally grounded beliefs in human rights and objective morality speak out now, while there is still time. This is not a game for the timid, though, so buckle up. Innocent lives, born and unborn, are depending on you to succeed. When you go out to defend the truth, make sure you’ve prepared your arguments and evidence with excellence, at the highest level. Make sure there is love for your enemy in in your heart and the sounds of your prayers for them still echoing around you.

UPDATE: I recognize that there are some secular pro-life people. Here is a good post from Secular Pro-Life. (H/T Well Spent Journey) But they are in the minority – most secularists support abortion, which is, I think just morally and rationally indefensible. If moral goodness means anything, it means protecting the weak from selfish destructiveness. We have to give up our hedonism for the benefit of little defenseless children in the womb. That’s just Morality 101. If you can go all the way, and not engage in sexual activity that puts unborn children at risk, do that. I’m a virgin, and I value love and romance above recreational sex. Follow me.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

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