Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

If you accept Jesus and become a Christian, will God make you happy?

Navy SEAL Matthew "Axe" Axelson

Navy SEAL Matthew “Axe” Axelson

This is a wonderful, wonderful post from Amy Hall, who writes for the Stand to Reason blog.

She writes:

I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:

You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?

That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.

So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion.

All right, readers. I don’t want any of you to be thinking that if you become a Christian that these things should be expected to happen:

  • you will feel happy all the time
  • you will be able to sense God’s secret plan for your life through your feelings
  • God’s secret plan for your life will automatically work, even though it’s crazy
  • God will give you a perfect spouse and lots of money without you having to do any work
  • you get permission to do things that that make you happy, even if they are expressly forbidden by the Bible
  • you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad (e.g. – go to work), because God wants you to be happy

No! Where do people get this idea that if they convert to Christianity, then God will become their cosmic butler?

Amy has the answer: (emphasis mine)

Hear me, everyone: This is a failure of the church.

A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.

If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.

It’s the church. It’s all the singing about happy things and having of happy feelings and happy preaching designed to make us feel good. I would say the comforting devotional reading doesn’t help to make us any tougher or more practical, either. People seem to use Bible study and devotion as a way to artificially create good feelings of happiness, peace and comfort, instead of just doing hard things to serve God. I don’t think it’s a “spiritual” Christian thing to read A. W. Tozer, etc. just so that you can feel comforted and spiritual. That stuff just gives you a false sense of safety about your precarious situation. God’s job is not to prevent you from suffering. In fact, even if you make really smart, practical decisions, you can expect to get creamed anyway.

Please take 15 minutes and read the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament.

Here’s a summary from GotQuestions.org:

Purpose of Writing: 1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.

Brief Summary: Though this time of persecution was desperate, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.

Practical Application: The assurance of eternal life is given to all Christians. One way to identify with Christ is to share in His suffering. To us that would be to endure insults and slurs from those who call us “goodie two shoes” or “holier than thou.” This is so minor compared to what Christ suffered for us on the Cross. Stand up for what you know and believe is right and rejoice when the world and Satan aim to hurt you.

Recently, I blogged about how suffering is compatible with an all-powerful God, so you might want to read that too if you missed it.

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

Are Latter Day Saints (LDS) doctrines supported by philosophy, science 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Has the Creator of the universe ever spoken to us?

Has God every reached out to humanity?

Has God every reached out to humanity?

People often ask the question, “why must I believe in Jesus and only Jesus in order to be rightly related to God?”

Indeed. Why should we care about the teachings of Jesus more than any other religious leader. Well, we know from scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning, and hence a Creator. We know from the fine-tuning argument that there is a Designer of the cosmos, as well. So the question becomes, has there ever been a human being who could give us accurate information about who the Creator and Designer is?

It turns that there is such a person, and we know it because we have evidence that this person rose from the dead – a feat only possible if the Creator and Designer wanted to draw attention to this person, and to his teachings. The account of this is recorded in a collection of ancient writings called the New Testament, which can be investigated using the ordinary rules of ancient historiography. Although much of what is written in the New Testament cannot be proven historical, a few facts that are reported there pass the mainstream historical tests. From those facts, we can infer that God was putting his stamp of approval on the teachings of a very important person.

The man who returned from the dead

Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.

Here are the four facts:

  • FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 
  • FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  • FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

He shows how each fact is supported reasons which pass the standard historical rules used by ancient historians.

Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.

2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.

3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case.

So, if you are undertaking an investigation to see if the God who creates and designs the universe has anything to say to you, a good place to start is seeing what this guy Jesus had to say to you. No faith required.

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

Study: non-family daycare linked to anti-social behavior in children

From the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

Academics at Oxford University discovered that exposure to some forms of early education contributed to bad behaviour and could be linked to emotional problems.

The study, based on an analysis of infants from almost 1,000 families, showed that the strongest influence on children came from within the home itself.

Children raised in poor families with high levels of parental stress or mental health problems were most at risk of developing emotional problems by the time they started school, it emerged.

The research also uncovered trends relating to children who were in formal child care — away from their parents.

The disclosure will revive debate over the best way to raise children amid a surge in the number of under-fives enrolled in nurseries and with childminders in the past 20 years. Figures from the Department for Education show that 441,000 children under five are in day nurseries while another 272,000 are being looked after by childminders.

[…]In the Oxford study, researchers recruited 991 families with children aged three months. Mothers had an average age of 30.

Researchers assessed children at the age of four through questionnaires about their behaviour and emotions completed by teachers and parents. They also observed care provided by mothers and observed non-parental care for at least 90 minutes for those children placed in formal childcare settings.

The report, published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development, said that “children who spent more time in group care, mainly nursery care, were more likely to have behavioural problems, particularly hyperactivity”.

The study, led by Prof Alan Stein, of Oxford’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that “spending more time in day care centres, over the total period was a predictor of total problem scores”.

“Children who spent more time in day care centres were more likely to be hyperactive,” it said. “Children receiving more care by childminders were more likely to have peer problems.”

The authors added: “The findings in relation to childminding suggest that it might be out of home care rather than group care that raises the risk of behavioural difficulties.”

The researchers also tracked other forms of early years care and found benefits to different approaches.

They found that children who spent more time in pre-school playgroups – normally for a few hours a day, rather than a full-time nursery – had fewer problems.

More time with a nanny in parents’ own home predicted higher levels of “pro-social behaviour”, showing willingness to help others, it emerged.

The study said: “These findings suggest that interventions to enhance children’s emotional and behavioural development might best focus on supporting families and augmenting the quality of care in the home.”

A study like this will be useful when debating people with open minds, but hardcore feminists and socialists, who want women to work in order to fund bigger government, will not be moved. Because for them, it’s not about evidence. It’s about ideology. That’s why we have to be careful about letting people like that get elected.

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

How secular leftists misuse science to normalize sexual anarchy

Jay Richards tweeted this article Touchstone magazine.

Here’s part of it:

Here is how the Mead Method works. It has four easily memorized steps. You begin by proving that some behavior is natural, in the sense of being enjoyed by primitive people, who are assumed to be far closer to the basic human realities than we are. As the Chronicle’s writer put it:

Less than 50 years ago, Canela women, who live in Amazonian Brazil, enjoyed the delights of as many as 40 men one after another in festive rituals. When it was time to have a child, they’d select their favorite dozen or so lovers to help their husband with the all-important task. Even today, when the dalliances of married Bar ladies in Colombia and Venezuela result in a child, they proudly announce the long list of probable fathers.

Then you find some way to show that the behavior works. If to our overdeveloped modern eyes it looks like self-indulgence or sluttishness, it is actually a rational and effective way of living. An anthropologist quoted in the article claims that the more possible fathers a child has, the more men will take care of him and his mother. As the writer put it, “Fooling around appears to have helped our ancestral mothers equip their little ones for success—the sexual equivalent of reading to them every night or enrolling in the after-school chess club.”

Having established to your satisfaction that the behavior is not only natural but effective, you then declare that all such behaviors are just social constructions anyway and ours (the modern, still sort of Christian way) is really not nearly so common as we would like to think. To do this the writer quotes an anthropologist who studied tribes in Paraguay and Tanzania, who said, “This model of the death-do-us-part, missionary-position couple is just a tiny part of human history. The patterns of human sexuality are so much more variable.”

At this point, the case is often strengthened by caricaturing the present. That “missionary-position couple” is supposed, I think, to suggest “dull.” It can be strengthened even more by not stopping to ask what the patterns found in history might actually be. Perhaps there are only a few patterns, and contemporary marriage an expression (as it seems to be) of a dominant mode by which human societies try to restrain the destructive effects of human sexual desire and direct it to social ends.

Finally, you imply, without quite saying it, that the primitive behavior would work just as well for us, it being (though a social construction) more natural and all. The writer does this with quotes, like this one from a William Crocker of the Smithsonian Institution: “Multiple lovers, that’s just part of the life. It’s recreation, just like races and running. It’s all done in the spirit of joy and fun.”

The Margaret Mead Method, in either its original or modified form, is a very useful method . . . if you’re a creep. It proves—to the standard of the man with his pants halfway off and the woman who has gotten a better offer than her husband the couch potato will make, anyway—that sexual libertinism is natural and sexual restraint unnatural, and since being natural is always good, you ought to let go and have fun, just like the jolly party girls of the South American tribes.

This is why Coming of Age in Samoa made Mead famous. You want to have an affair with the babe next door? Well, those darling little Samoans living in a state of nature are doing it all the time, and look how happy and fulfilled and innocent they are. Margaret Mead said so. It’s scientific. You feel guilty? You’re a modern man afflicted with Judeo-Christian guilt, but just ignore it—socially constructed and unnatural as it is—and enjoy the pleasures nature and evolution have provided for you.

I am afraid this is the idea these stories almost always promote, whatever insights into the nature of a fallen creation they provide. They begin with reports of young Samoans having free and joyful sex among the palm trees, and end with middle-aged Barney desperately betraying his wife at the Hampton Inn.

Now this is supposed to be a hopeful, helpful blog post, so let me give you some advice.

There are things you can do to get around the older people who try to sell you this in school and in the culture. You have to do your own research, and learn the consequences of getting rid of the rules around sexual conduct before you break them.

First, read Romans 1, and understand that people who are doing evil things feel better about what they are doing if they can get you to approve of it, celebrate it, and subsidize it. So keep that in mind when people are telling you that something wrong is “right”.

Second, understand that people who are teaching you in school often portray themselves one way in class, but in actual fact, their private lives are totally messed up. It’s tempting to give them more respect than they deserve.

Third, it’s good to be think critically about what you see in the culture, and to read history in order to gain a perspective that allows you to judge what is seen as normal in your own time.

Fourth, it’s good to read studies to find out what happens next, should you take some course of action that is “normal”. For example, it’s a very good idea to research the link between the number of premarital sexual partners and divorce rate.

Fifth, you should be skeptical of people who misuse science in order to push an agenda. Just understand where they are going and then see if they might not be abusing science to get there. It happens all the time – just look at how global cooling / global warming has been used to justify increased control of energy development and consumption by government.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , ,

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