Category Archives: Atheism

SO SIMPLE, SO NEGLECTED

Watching the video I posted yesterday reminds me of a simple, yet widely neglected truth: Christians must wrestle with the beliefs of their faith.  We are now embarrassed to say doctrine and theology.  Sounds too impractical.  If people come to that tragic conclusion, it is either the teacher’s fault or it could be the student’s fault.  But it is never the subject of vibrant and life-giving theology.  And notice how I felt compelled to modify theology.  Maybe I am too defensive!

What happens when we mainly attract people to church with the social benefits, yet they don’t really understand much of what the Christian faith is about?  Well, if they get troubled and want to ask probing questions, they might be told good Christians don’t struggle with such things.  I’ve heard my share of such horror stories.

Christianity is true, but rightly understood it is beautiful, compelling, worth everything we are and have.

GRAB A STRONG CUP OF COFFEE

Warning, and I am serious: Make sure you are ready spiritually to listen to the eighteen minute clip below.  Bart is the son of the famous, Christian speaker Tony Campolo.  Bart started many ministries, but recently became the first secular humanist chaplain at USC.

Below is the article followed by his short talk.  This is the kind of stuff that motivates me to put together a new seminar called “Listening to Skeptics and Doubters.”  Here is the brief description of that course/seminar.  If you know of a church or any organization who would be interested in having it, drop me a note at davidgemoore@gmail.com.

As Christians we understandably are quick to answer the questions raised by detractors of the gospel. 

In this course/seminar/talk (all options are available), I will certainly offer responses to the objections raised by those outside the Christian faith, but I seek to do something more. 

My approach follows somewhat in the spirit of Christian philosopher, Merold Westphal.  He patiently allowed Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche to bring their various cases against Christianity.  Then he did what most Christians don’t: he conceded that some of their concerns were valid.  Professor Westphal offered answers, but first he gave ample time so these three “masters of suspicion” could speak freely.  

We will look at five challenges to the Christian faith from the nineteenth century.  All five challenges remain with us today:

*Critiques of Christianity from writers like Emerson and Melville along with the serial doubter, poet Emily Dickinson.

*New challenges due to immigration of moving from a largely Protestant nation to more of a “banquet” of religious options.

*Processing the carnage of the Civil War, numerically a 9/11 every day for about seven years!

*Attacks on the Bible from radical scholars which caused many to lose confidence in the Christian faith.

*A new paradigm of origins thanks to Charles Darwin.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/september/deconversion-some-thoughts-on-bart-campolos-departure-from-.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IDoNAWOC5g

TALKING TO AN ATHEIST PART 4

Among other things, it seems all of us long for two things.  First, we want our own individual lives to matter, and second, we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  The first, I will call “unique impact” and the second, “community.”   Think about work as one example.  At work, we don’t want to be the proverbial cog in the wheel.  Rather, we want our individual contribution to be seen as unique, and therefore integral to the success of the company. Appreciating individual abilities is why so many companies recognize employees with awards.  We all love to be valued for what we uniquely bring to the table.  It seems we are designed for “unique impact.”

On the other side of things, we desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  We long to be part of a group of people who truly love and care for one another.  That is community.

If we are hard-wired for “unique impact” and “community,” where might these come from?  Understanding the Christian view of God provides a clue. Christians believe in one God, yet three Persons, all of whom are fully God. It is not a pie where each Person of the trinity is 33.333% God.  Neither is the trinity a belief in three gods.  There is a deep mystery with the trinity to be sure, but think about this.  The Bible says each Person in the trinity has unique roles and functions, yet all three Persons of the trinity are in complete harmony with one another.  If you are created in the “image of the triune God” as the Bible states, doesn’t it make sense that this is where your desire for “unique impact” and “community” would arise?  Search out other religions and philosophies.  You will find the trinity is unique.  

TALKING TO AN ATHEIST PART 3

I reminded my atheist correspondent that the Christian God is unique.  That in and of itself does not make it true, but it should cause us to pause, especially when we think about the other major religions.
Islam and Judaism have a big God (theologians like to call this transcendence), but their God does not come near (what theologians call immanence).
Hinduism and Buddhism have a god(s) who may be very near, especially with the latter’s pantheism, but transcendence gets lost.
Christianity has both: a transcendent God who comes near.
Again, unique, but that is not quite an argument for its truthfulness. 
The final post on Tuesday about the trinity does make a case that is compelling from the standpoint of truth, so stay tuned.

TALKING TO AN ATHEIST PART 2

Along with the ring of truth, I told my atheist interlocutor that the Bible does a poor job of marketing itself.

Tough sayings and stories abound in the Bible.  You have the apostle Paul despairing of life, great King David who is a murderer, adulterer, and don’t forget, cover-up artist, and Jesus Himself struggling mightily with God’s plan in the Garden of Gethsemane.  And then you have all that stuff about picking up your cross, the narrow way, and hating your father and mother.

When skeptics tell me Christians believe because “it is easy,” I know among other things that the skeptic has not seriously read the Bible.

 

TALKING TO AN ATHEIST

I was speaking with a well-known atheist who was ready for me to use the typical arguments for the existence of God.  I steered clear and took another approach.  Over the next few days, I will share the things I mentioned.

The first is the “ring of truth” which comes from reading the Bible.  For example, you have stories of “delicate women boiling their own children” during a time when food was scarce.  You also have a woman cut into twelve pieces as a sign of God’s judgment, not surprisingly during the time of the Judges.  And then there is Mary Magdalene who is the first witness of Christ’s resurrection.  If you were making up the story you would have powerful religious leaders probably from Jerusalem attesting the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection, but instead you have a formerly demon-possessed woman.

 

WHAT BIBLE ARE YOU READING?!

I decided to write this post before the flooding in Colorado and shootings in DC.  But then there are always evils and catastrophic events going on, many of which we are unaware of.

 

A short time ago I read an article about a former pastor who became a skeptic.  The post 9/11 world did not make sense to him.  He figured there could be no God in such a world.  This is nothing new.

Andrew Delbanco has famously said Americans went from believing in the providence of God prior to the Civil War to believing in luck after it.  Too much carnage took place for one to keep believing in a God who is good and in control of all things.

I also struggle to make sense of these realities, yet I am perplexed by those who choose to bail on the Christian faith.

The Bible makes it clear that we are living in a broken world where the most hideous things imaginable will take place.  Make sure to digest that important truth.  If “delicate women” will boil their own children for food (see Deut. 28:53-57), we know there is the capacity for all kinds of evil.

Further, if God had not made it clear that I will not understand many things this side of heaven, I also would consider bailing on the Christian faith.  However, God has made it clear we will only understand very little this side of heaven when it comes to processing evil and suffering.  There is quite a bit underscoring this reality in Scripture (for example Deut. 29:29; Job 38-42; Isa. 55:8,9; I Cor. 13:12)

Luther, like the Psalmists (note plural), struggled with the silence of God, even the God who seems to hide Himself at times.

So I wonder what Bible the pastor turned skeptic was reading.  I trust you are reading and digesting the entire Bible!

 

 

THE POPE, SEX, AND AN ATHEIST

I know.  The title sounds like the start of a joke.

Here is what atheist, Richard Dawkins, tweeted when Benedict made it public he would retire:

“I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex.”

(Richard Dawkins, Tweet, Feb. 11, 2013)

Sex must take on a sort of transcendence if you are a atheist/materialist like Dawkins.  That is the truly pathetic thing!