Criteria and Evidence

People are so convinced that disbelief in God is equivalent to rationality that they will engage in blatant self-contradiction, vagueness, and stupidity in order to persist in their unbelief. A recent conversation that I had on Facebook about the nature of evidence is an example of this. It is common to hear unbelievers say that there is no evidence for God, but when you ask them what they mean by “evidence”, they either provide you with an impossible criterion, or leave it undefined. In this case, my opponent gives an impossible criterion:

1obs

He says that “observational data” is what he will accept as evidence. There are two main reasons why this is problematic.

The first reason why this is problematic is because our observations do not provide us with an interpretive framework. This means we can only interpret our observations based upon our prior assumptions which are not themselves observable. We organize and make judgements about our experiences, but our experiences themselves do not teach us anything. When I was younger, if my parents pointed to a spherical object and said “ball”, nothing necessarily followed. Only when my mind interpreted the sound “ball” to denote the spherical object could I draw any conclusions. I assumed that the sound meant something, but meaning cannot be observed.

Since our prior assumptions dictate how we interpret our observations, two people observing the same event can draw different conclusions. The real issue is not always the observations themselves, but our assumptions, or presuppositions, about our observations. Since I presuppose God’s existence, and this gentleman does not, we draw different conclusions when we observe a tree. I recognize it as God’s creation, and he refuses to do so. The only way that the objects around us cannot be considered as evidence of God is if we first begin with the assumption that they are not God’s creation, and the only way we can consider them as evidence of God if we first begin with the assumption that they are God’s creation. Since the Bible says things like, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and the seasons are a “witness” to God’s goodness (Acts 14:17), trees are indeed evidence of God’s existence, but only after one accepts the Bible as their interpretive framework.

The second main reason why observational data is a problematic criterion for evidence is because it excludes God a priori. An a priori claim is a concept that does not rely upon external verification. For example, “All bachelors are single” is an a priori statement. We do not need to go out into the world to find all bachelors so that we can verify that they are single, because it is a judgment that comes prior to external experience. In the same way, choosing a criterion of evidence is a priori; it establishes prior assumptions that will dictate how we are to evaluate something. No one will ever see or trip over a criterion. It comes prior to our experience of the real world. By establishing observational data as the criterion of evidence, my opponent was ruling out the possibility of God’s existence before we could even begin to examine any evidence.

My opponent places observation as a standard for judging the existence of things that are not observable. This is as absurd as using a yardstick to evaluate moral claims, or using the U.S. Constitution to evaluate interior design. What naive people constantly do is mix up these separate categories, placing one category as a judge over a second category that has no relevance to the first. This is how many atheists pride themselves in being scientific by rejecting God’s existence, because, as I mentioned in my Facebook comment above, they place science as the criterion for evaluating metaphysical claims.

Observe the following illustration:

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 11.41.08 AM

My opponent placed the green box as the criterion for evaluating everything in the purple box. Since he states that only things in the green box are valid, this ipso facto excludes the purple box. It’s not necessarily that there is no evidence for the things in the purple box, only that he defines a priori that it is impossible to provide evidence for the purple box given his definition of evidence.

As the picture indicates, not only does “observational data” exclude God, but it excludes logic as well. Logic is the formal study of the necessary prerequisites of rational thinking. The law of identity (A is A) and the law of non contradiction (“A” and “Not A” cannot be simultaneously true) are two examples. These prerequisites of rational thinking cannot be observed, and therefore, according to the man’s own criterion, there is no evidence that logic exists. By believing himself to be scientific, my opponent plunged himself into irrationalism.

In order to demonstrate how foolish his criterion is, I demanded observational data for all of his subsequent claims. My demands made no effect on him because he was incredibly dull. Here were some of my comments:

3obs

6obs

13obs

The moral of the story is that Christians should not be tricked into accepting an criterion of evidence that excludes Christianity to begin with. The ones that tout themselves to be the most objective and factual are the ones that are the most enslaved to their biases. We must be careful to guard against the nonsense that is constantly leveled against the Christian faith, and in doing so, we will “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Is It Possible That You Are Wrong?

Have you ever been in the middle of an argument and been asked, “Do you think it is possible that you are wrong?” If you say yes, then they disregard your entire argument without actually having refuted your argument. If you say no, or if you don’t respond to their question and point out that it is irrelevant, they then go on to criticize you for not admitting that you might be wrong. Consequently, they reject your entire argument because you do not admit that you might be wrong.

This is a catch-22 tactic used by hypocritical, intellectual frauds. They use it to relativize everything their opponents say in order to disregard it. If the argument can be considered relative to the person making the argument, then it does not apply to anyone else and would only be an opinion. I had a conversation with someone a few months ago who used this rhetorical tactic, saying:

“It’s one thing to say, ‘This is what I believe. I admit I could be wrong but it’s my best interpretation.’ You take it way further in saying, ‘I have the only possible interpretation of this and anyone else couldn’t possibly be right.'”

The man who told me this tried to discredit me merely because I believed that what I was saying was true. Here are the problems with his objection:

Irrelevant

When we evaluate arguments and ideas, it does not matter if the person making the argument can make mistakes. What matters is whether or not there is a mistake in the argument. A true statement is still true whether or not I say it or if anyone else says it. To attack an argument by attacking the speaker is a classic ad hominem fallacy.

A person who says something true does not have to be infallible to say something true. And when a person does say something true, by definition, this truth applies to everyone.

Hypocrisy

The author of the quotation above asserted that (1) it is wrong to impose what we believe upon other people, (2) a statement is not valid unless the speaker says that they might be wrong, and (3) it is wrong for a person to claim that they have the only correct interpretation. Since the speaker did not follow his own standard, he is a hypocrite. He applies a standard to me that he himself does not follow. In order to make these claims, the man (1) imposed his beliefs upon me that people should not impose their beliefs upon others, (2) did not admit that he might be wrong that people must always admit that they might be wrong, and (3) claimed to have the only correct interpretation that people who claim to have the only correct interpretation are wrong.

Knowledge is Rejected

All of his claims self destruct in a fireball of contradiction. Even if it were possible for this man to be consistent, then he was essentially claiming that it is impossible to know anything. If it is indeed wrong to think that we hold to a true interpretation of anything, then that means it is wrong to think that we truly know anything. To know something is to have a proper interpretation of it, but if this is impossible, then knowledge is impossible. If he truly believed that no one can know anything for sure, then he would not even be able to know that. Consequently, he does not know if what he was saying was right, and he does not know whether or not I was wrong.

Conclusion

Beware of irrational rhetorical tactics. This man was an irrelevant, hypocritical fool according to his own admission. A helpful remedy to this type of argumentation is to apply the argument’s own standard to itself. If someone says, “Nothing is true!” then that statement cannot be true, because if it were true, then it would be false. If someone says, “We cannot be sure about anything!” then we cannot be sure that we cannot be sure. It is irrelevant to an argument whether or not the one making the argument is a fallible human being, but we must evaluate arguments on their own terms. When we learn to evaluate arguments themselves, and to not evaluate arguments according to who states the argument and how they state it, then we will be able to think critically, and avoid irrelevant, self-refuting nonsense.

Stupid Objections

This is a response to a comment on one of my blogs called 40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality – Answered. This is a fantastic example of all of the self-contradiction, vagueness, and arbitrariness that people level against me and Christianity in general. I thought it could be used as a fun example. The comment is in bold and my response is in regular text.

“Here we go again, you are taking your wholly unfounded beliefs and desire to apply them to everyone.”

Is it bad to “apply” beliefs to other people? If so, then stop applying your beliefs to me. If it is only bad to apply beliefs to other people because the beliefs are unfounded, what is your foundation for saying that we must have a foundation for our beliefs? If you believe we must found our beliefs in something, let’s examine what you think makes beliefs founded or unfounded. Until then, your belief that we must have a foundation for our beliefs is itself unfounded.

“Pure and simple, there is no objective evidence or reason to support your religious beliefs, only purely subjective beliefs.”

But what do you mean by objective? And can you give objective evidence that states that objective evidence is necessary to support one’s beliefs? If you can’t then you refute yourself. If you do somehow give objective evidence to substantiate your appeal to objective evidence, then do you have objective evidence for the objective evidence which justifies your demand for objective evidence? You are either left with evidences that go back ad infinitum and therefore results in absurdity, or else you need to provide an axiom or a first principle to appeal to. What is this first principle of yours? It must be sufficiently large in order to substantiate a comprehensive worldview, or at least an axiom that substantiates your demand for objective evidence, but it must not be self refuting.

However, you haven’t defined what you mean by objective evidence. What if I reject your definition? If I reject your definition, then you have nothing left to appeal to, since I would reject your criterion of evidence, knowledge and truth in the first place. You also need to provide objective evidence that your definition of objective evidence is correct. Then you will also need to provide objective evidence for this objective evidence, and likewise objective evidence for this evidence, etc. Once again, in order to end this infinite series of appeals to this so-called “objective evidence,” you need an axiom for your worldview. What is your axiom?

If your definition of “objective evidence” is science, then you are irrational, since science is formally fallacious; science commits the fallacies of affirming the consequent and induction. Conclusions resulting from the scientific method never necessarily follow from their premises. Also, the conclusions of scientific observations and experiments are often based upon the subjective biases of the individual scientist, and not upon some objective criterion. If your “objective evidence” is empirical data, empirical data based upon one’s observations is the definition of subjective, since these empirical observations must pass through the medium of a perceiving subject. Furthermore, you interpret your sensations through a given interpretive framework. Can you tell me what this framework is? Can you give objective evidence that your framework is correct? Can you give objective evidence that that objective evidence is correct? Can you give objective evidence that all of this is objective? And then can you give objective evidence of that? Etc.

My first principle is scripture. This also answers your claim that my beliefs are subjective. Scripture is an object outside of myself. To be subjective means that a given notion is relative to myself, the subject. Scripture is not relative to myself, the subject, but is an object outside of myself. Therefore my beliefs are not subjective. I have spoken against all forms of subjective religion in my blog post Emotions Are Irrelevant. Christianity is purely objective, doctrinal, and is found is scriptural revelation.

If you object that my beliefs are still subjective because I have to interpret scripture, and that all textual interpretation is subjective and worthless, you refute yourself because you have to interpret the text of my comments and blog also. If you make textual interpretation wholly subjective, you make your interpretation of my blog subjective and therefore worthless. Thus, you cannot say, without refuting yourself, that my belief in scripture is subjective. Since my beliefs are not subjective, your objection is refuted.

However, do you have objective evidence that subjective beliefs are wrong or fallacious? Do you have objective evidence for that objective evidence? Do you have objective evidence for this objective evidence that you used to substantiate your original objective evidence? Etc.

“You love to use a lot of words to obfuscate,”

Example? And is obfuscation a bad thing according to your worldview? If yes or no, can you give me objective evidence for why this would be good or bad? Can you then give me objective evidence for that evidence? And and objective evidence for that evidence? Etc. If you can’t find an example where I obfuscate then your comment is incorrect, but if you can prove that I obfuscate, why would that matter according to your worldview?

“but in the end you have no more evidence to support your particular beliefs than any of the tens of thousands of other beliefs, that is none.”

According to your own statement, this means that you have no more evidence to support your particular beliefs than mine, or any of the tens of thousands of other beliefs. This means you have no evidence to support your belief that no one has any more evidence in favor of any other belief; so you refute yourself. Since you claim to have no justification for your beliefs, you have no justification to object against me. You have admitted that you know nothing.

“You can have any set of beliefs you want”

Do you have any objective evidence to support your contention that people can have any set of beliefs they want? Do you have objective evidence for this objective evidence? Do you have any objective evidence for the objective evidence that you use for your original objective evidence? Etc. If I can have any set of beliefs I want, then why are you complaining to me for having my own set of beliefs?

If anyone can have their own set of beliefs, than anyone can have their own set of beliefs which state that not everyone can have their own set of beliefs; but you deny this in what proceeds:

“but you have no right to try to impose your beliefs on others.”

If people have no right to impose their beliefs upon others, then you have no right to impose your beliefs upon me you hypocrite. You’re imposing your belief upon me by saying that no one can impose beliefs upon others, but in doing so, you are contradicting yourself by imposing your beliefs upon me. But do you have any of your undefined “objective evidence” to support your claim that I don’t have any right to impose my perspective on others?

Since you cannot demonstrate that this proposition is objective, then this is a subjective belief. Since, subjective beliefs are wrong according to your own standard, I can reject it.

This claim is self-refuting, makes you a hypocrite, and is a subjective, unfounded belief.

“All 40 of your “questions” are without merit”

I didn’t ask any questions. I was answering Matthew Vines’ questions. They aren’t my questions but his.

“in the real world since they all presuppose, without foundation, that the god you reference exists,”

You’re the one assuming that I lack a foundation. My foundation is scripture. And furthermore, I was giving a Christian response to Matthew Vines. The Christian worldview is the teaching of scripture and what can be logically deduced from scripture. The only way I could give a Christian response to Vines was to repeat scriptural teaching. If you deny scriptural teaching, then this a different matter altogether. The whole point of my response to these questions was to answer them from a perspective which you disagree with. To complain that I answered these questions from a Christian perspective obliviously ignores the whole point of my response. Vines wanted answers from Christians who disagree with gay marriage, so I naturally gave a Christian response.

Why can’t I presuppose that God exists? Do you have any objective evidence for why I cannot? Or objective evidence for that objective evidence? Etc. Do you even have a definition of “objective evidence?” And if you do, what is your objective evidence that this is the proper definition of objective evidence? Do you have objective evidence for that? And if you are able to define objective evidence, are you going to be a hypocrite and impose your belief of the proper definition of “objective evidence” upon me, even though you said that people have no right to impose their beliefs upon others?

Can you give your definition on what it means to impose a belief upon someone else? What’s your objective evidence for this definition? Do you have objective evidence for that objective evidence? Etc. And if you do come up with a definition, are you going to be a hypocrite and impose your definition upon me, even though you say that it’s wrong to impose beliefs upon other people?

You like to say that I make claims without any foundation, but this claim itself is without foundation or explanation.

You say that my questions (even though they weren’t my questions) are without merit in the “real world,” but what do you define as the real world? Do you define the real world as a world where God does not exist? If so, you are only begging the question. Do you have any objective evidence to support your idea of the real world? Do you have objective evidence of that? Etc. How do you know about the real world? What defines the real world? You haven’t told us any of this.

“that the book you reference has any actual truth and that everyone should listen to, and believe, you.”

Once again, I was giving responses to questions that were directed towards people who believe what I believe, so you are complaining that I am giving Christian responses to questions that were directed towards Christians.

At any rate, do you deny that there is any truth in the Bible? So that means that you reject the existence of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, king Cyrus, and any number of other undeniable facts of history? So Persia, Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt never existed? Since you deny that the Bible “has any actual truth” in it, then you deny basic facts that cannot be denied. If you think that the Bible does not say anything true about history, then we have absolutely no knowledge of history whatsoever.

You reject what I say merely because I believe I am right and that people should believe and listen to what I say. If I am wrong only because I believe other people should believe and listen to what I am saying, then you are a hypocrite for demanding that I ought to listen and believe what you are saying. If you backtrack and say that you are not saying that I should believe and listen to what you are saying, then your comments are meaningless and I can disregard them.

How does it feel to know that everything you say is either self-refuting, hypocritical, meaningless, or absurd?

Talking Contradiction

Recently I read one of the most nonsensical YouTube comments I have ever seen. In the comment section of one of my YouTube videos, where I film myself reading my blog post “Love Is Not An Emotion,” the following is what was stated. I will give the comment in italics and bold; my response to the comment will be beneath it. This is a fantasy example of why critical thinking is such a necessary intellectual tool. Without it, people think in blatant contradictions.

The Comment And My Response

In my opinion, Love is a state of being. Emotions change but love is constant. Love can not be defined. Humanity tries hard to define God but God is boundless…like Love. Affection, Infatuation, etc. are just chemicals that goes around in our human minds. Love is beyond human thought. It is Nature. Love your SELF (not the ego) then you are able to give and receive.

You say that “Love is a state of being” and “love is constant” but then you say “Love can not be defined” so which is it? If love cannot be defined then how do you know that love is a state of being or that love is constant? But then if love is a state of being and is constant, then it can be defined.

“Humanity tries hard to define God but God is boundless”

So you think that God cannot be known? How do you know this? Do you not then admit that you do not know anything about God? But if God cannot be defined, then how do you know that he can be defined as boundless? Why do you reject the scriptural teaches that God can be known and has made himself and his attributes known? Do you reject his attributes? If God cannot be defined, then we cannot say that God is righteous, that God is the Creator, or that God is Trinity or that God is love or anything else.

“like Love.”

Once again, if love is undefinable then how do you know that it is undefinable? Why do you reject 2 John 6 which defines love? Why do you deny the teaching of scripture and deny that love is walking according to God’s commands?

“Love is beyond human thought.”

If love is beyond human thought then that means you are not thinking about love when you are trying to describe it, which means that you are not talking about love since love is unthinkable. So what are you talking about? If love is beyond thought, then it is unthinkable, which means that all of your thoughts about love are nonsense. However, love is very understandable. 2 John 6 says that love is obeying God. Why do you deny this and why do you deny that we can know what love is even when scripture tells you what it is?

“It is Nature.”

But if love is undefinable then that means that either nature is undefinable also, or it means that it IS indeed possible to define love. You also said that love is beyond thought, so this must mean that nature is likewise beyond thought, which means that you are not thinking of anything when you are talking about these topics. Since you are not talking about anything, your statements are nonsense. You cannot say that love is unthinkable and undefinable, and then go on to define love and think about love.

Even if I ignore your constant self-contradiction, how do you define nature? What is nature? According to whom? Nature in the Biblical sense of creation? How is love creation? Or if you mean nature in a non biblical sense, does this mean that love is trees? Or that love is natural to humans? How is love according to our nature when the Bible says that the unregenerate are passing their days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Titus 3:3), and that the ungodly are God haters as Romans 1 says?

“Love your SELF (not the ego) then you are able to give and receive.”

But I cannot love myself if love is undefinable and unthinkable. And what is this distinction between the self and the ego? What are you talking about?

Conclusion

How is it possible for full grown adults to think this way? This individual clearly has no consistency in her thought. This highlights the incoherent mindset many people possess, especially upon spiritual and Biblical issues. If these things are beyond thought then we cannot think about them, and then anything that you say about them is about nonsense. If whatever it is cannot be defined, then what are you talking about and why are you defining what you just said cannot be defined? I hope you were as entertained as I was.

Nietzsche’s Paradox

Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th century German philosopher who, among other things, sought to provide a philosophical vision for a post-Christian world. Nietzsche witnessed the hypocrisy of the professing Christians of his day who were clinging to a moral system derived from Christianity, while simultaneously rejecting belief in God. Nietzsche mocked these double-minded people and prided himself in his new, daring philosophy:

“We prefer to live amid the ice than to be breathed upon by modern virtues and other southerly winds!…We were brave enough; we spared neither ourselves nor others” (Taffel 385).

Nietzsche would provide us with a new philosophy, a philosophy of the hammer, which would destroy the idols of our past ideals. He would “prefer to live amid the ice” by standing upon the ideological foundation of his own autonomous design, after having undermined the Christian foundation of western civilization. He envisioned a new generation of Übermensch, men who would transcend the slave morality of Christianity, and would live in accordance with the values of their own design.

The Übermensch

Nietzsche’s vision of the Übermensch sought for a generation of individuals who would introduce a new era. This generation would find itself within a post-Christian, post-God civilization. Nietzsche insisted that we must throw off the vestiges of Christian influence, whether they be moral, cultural, or philosophical. However, once we cast off these remnants of Christian influence, it is necessary to replace Christianity’s moral, cultural, and philosophical ideals with new ones, just as Onfray articulated:

“Do away with God, yes, but then what?” (Onfray 34).

Hence, one of these new ideals is Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Unfortunately there has been a wide variety of interpretation regarding this concept, as Ratner-Rosenhagen has observed:

“the Übermensch received the most intense interest while also posing the some of the most difficult interpretive problems for American readers. Contestation over interpretation erupted even among those of the same political affiliation. religious denomination, and literary sensibility” (Ratner-Rosenhagen 111).

Even though there has been so many nuanced interpretations and applications of the Übermensch, there seems to be a general consensus that Nietzsche meant some type of self-mastery, self-overcoming, an autonomous transcendence above commonly accepted virtues. The word has been translated into English as the “over man,” “beyond man,” and even “superman” (before the fictional superhero “Super Man” had been created). The connotation of the Übermensch is that of an individual who can go above and beyond the riffraff of commoners, those who forge for themselves their own values, who stand alone and unabashedly in the midst of a world without foundations. In essence the Übermensch,

“must be used to living on mountain-tops, and to feeling the wretched gabble of politics and national egotism beneath him…One must be superior to humanity in power, in loftiness of soul, in contempt” [italics his] (Taffel 383).

Nietzsche’s Paradox

Unfortunately for Nietzsche’s philosophy, it degenerates into a paradox. In order to follow his values, one must reject his values, and by rejecting Nietzsche’s values we simultaneously follow them. The following is an excerpt from the preface of his book called Ecce Homo, the last book he wrote. This passage comes out of the mouth of a fictional character named Zarathustra, who personifies Nietzsche’s Übermensch:

“Alone do I now go, my disciples! Get ye also hence, and alone! Thus I would have it…Ye say ye believe in Zarathustra? But of what account is Zarathustra? Ye are my believers: but of what account are all believers? Ye had not yet sought yourselves when ye found me. Thus do all believers; therefore is all believing worth so little. Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when ye have all denied me will I come back unto you” (Taffel 454).

What Nietzsche calls for, through the character of Zarathustra, is an abandonment of the ideals that we have been handed from the past, most prominently Christianity, but also most of our western philosophical tradition. This abandonment calls for a reevaluation of all of our values in order to form new ideals. Nietzsche’s new ideal explains that people ought to stand upon their own two feet, to make for themselves their own values, to be free from the slavery of cultural practices and inherited religion. However, since Nietzsche proclaims his own ideals and values through the character of Zarathustra, in order to be consistent with his own framework, he must likewise call upon others to abandon his philosophy in favor of their own autonomous values. Hence, Zarathustra calls for his disciples to abandon him:

“[Nietzsche] called for unfaithful disciples who, by their betrayal, would prove their loyalty. He wanted people to obey him by following themselves and no one else, not even him” (Onfray 34).

Since people according to Nietzsche ought to stand upon their own philosophical feet and create for themselves their own values, people ought not follow even Nietzsche, since by following him it becomes impossible to become philosophically autonomous. Hence, to follow Nietzsche is to abandon him, and to abandon Nietzsche is to follow him.

Logical Oblivion

This is irrationalism, plain and simple. The framework that is presented above is self-refuting. Essentially what Nietzsche accomplished was creating a dogmatically anti-dogmatic worldview in which he sought to universalize relativistic principles. The problem is that Nietzsche’s anti-dogmatism is itself a dogmatism and that Nietzsche’s attempt to deny universal values itself becomes a universal value. Therefore, Nietzsche has no logical grounds for criticizing Kant when he says:

“One more word against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention…to possess a virtue merely because one happens to respect the concept ‘virtue,’ as Kant would have us do, is pernicious. ‘Virtue,’ ‘Duty,’ ‘Goodness in itself,’ goodness stamped with the character of impersonal and universal validity – these things are mere mental hallucinations, in which decline the final devitalisation [sic] of life…The most fundamental laws of preservation and growth demand precisely the reverse, namely: that each should discover his own virtue, his own Categorical Imperative” (Taffel 391).

Nietzsche critiques Kant for creating an ethic (Kant’s theory of the Categorical Imperative) that is “stamped with the character of impersonal and universal validity,” yet Nietzsche goes on to offer an alternate ethic that does the exact same thing. Nietzsche criticizes Kant’s universal moral claims, but is oblivious to the fact that he offers his own universal moral claims. In fact, Nietzsche proposes that there exists universal “laws of preservation” which necessitate that all people create their own values, in the same way that Kant states that there exists universal laws of rationality which necessitate the validity of certain values. Nietzsche criticizes the decadence of religion and “moralist” philosophers like Kant, but becomes one himself. If Nietzsche truly believed that there exists no values with universal validity, as claimed by Kant and Christianity, then Nietzsche would not have bothered to object to them, since his objection itself holds no universal validity.

Let me give an example. Suppose I follow Nietzsche’s advice by creating my own values. I can therefore strive to create my own values by rejecting Nietzsche’s values which state that I must create my own values. Thus, I may create my own values by adopting the values, faith, and morals of Christianity as taught in the Bible. No beliefs are off-limits within this framework; once again, to follow Nietzsche is to deny him, and to deny him is to follow him. Also, if Nietzsche’s axiom upon this matter is not universally applicable, then we may ignore it. However, if Nietzsche claims that his system is universally applicable, then he has no reason to criticize Christianity or Kant upon the basis that they claim universal validity, since Nietzsche himself claims universal validity.

In light of all of this, I find Michel Onfray’s comments in his Atheist Manifesto especially amusing when he advocates for this type of Nietzschean ideal:

“Nietzsche’s solutions are known to us…Being Nietzschean means proposing alternative hypotheses, fresh, new, post-Nietzschean, but assimilating his struggle on the mountain peaks” (Onfray 34).

If indeed we ought to continue proposing these new hypotheses, I propose a new hypothesis to dispose of Nietzsche’s project of constantly proposing new hypotheses of reality, God, and the world, and recommend that we return to the word of God found in the Bible for these answers. Let our civilization return back to possessing a reverence and fear of God and his word. Given that this option has been out of vogue for over a century, it is indeed a new, “fresh” idea which has not been seriously considered by contemporary intellectuals or culture. If indeed we take Onfray’s advice of continually inventing new ideas, we will never come to the knowledge of the truth, and we would even eventually deny the atheism that Onfray contends for in favor of a new hypothesis.

Conclusion

The world seems to have been captivated over the last several decades by a man who has argued in favor of self-contradiction. Nietzsche’s ideas are entertaining enough, but his ideas fall short of the possibility of any consistent application of them. Upon this point, we have no choice but to follow Nietzsche’s advice to disregard his advice and to carve out a trail of our own. As for me, I will not follow the slave-morality of my atheistic and new age surroundings which glorify godlessness, emotionalism, and irrationalism, but I will follow God’s revelation as found in the Bible. According to God’s grace, you too may escape from the snare of self-refuting relativism and derive your values from scripture, not the ramblings of a 19th century megalomaniac.

Works Cited

Onfray, Michele. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and
Islam. New York: Arcade, 2005. Print.

Ratner-Rosanhagen, Jennifer. American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His
Ideals. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Taffel, David, ed. A Nietzsche Compendium. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2008.
Print.

Christian Today Says God Has No Plan For Our Lives

Popular Christian magazines and news websites have a knack for often giving terrible theological commentary. Their posts are formulated to be thought provoking and challenging, when in reality they end up teaching blatant false doctrine and/or confusion. Mark Wood’s post in Christian Today called God does not have a plan for our lives, and we should stop pretending that he has, exemplifies this.

What the article opposes are the two popular perspectives that result from the cliche, “God has a plan for you.” On the one hand, Mr. Woods opposes the unthinking sentimental types who freely tell everybody “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” and who likewise believe that God is on his knees, begging people to accept his blessings into their lives, since God is fickle and powerless to do so himself. These individuals picture God as catering to the arbitrary whims of people like a butler. The other group that Woods opposes are those that believe that God is in control of everything. Woods figures that there is a problem both with believing that God has a plan due to his sovereign control of all things, and that there is also a problem with believing that God has a mushy, unfulfilled, and uncontrollable benevolent intentions for everyone which he cannot quite accomplish. I am more interested in the former objection. I will quote Woods and comment on whatever parts of Woods’ posts are relevant.

“In other words: the bad things that happen to you are God’s doing and part of the master-work he’s making of your life. I see the attraction. But I think the idea that God deliberately weaves dark threads into our lives is theologically flawed and psychologically cruel. I think we should stop saying it and start offering people something more real, more exciting, more dangerous and more true.”

Woods claims that God does not weave dark threads into our lives. If scripture teaches that this is the case, then it doesn’t matter if people want to call it psychologically cruel or not; the fact is, is that God controls everything and that we ought to submit to his revelation over emotional nonsense. Since “dark threads” is very vague, I will give some basic examples of how God is the one who causes these dark threads to come into our lives:

A. 1 Thessalonians 3:3

God predestines his elect for affliction. Consider this verse:

we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3).

Paul sent Timothy to comfort the believers of Thessalonica since they were experiencing hardship and affliction, especially from the Thessalonian Jews (Acts 17:5-9, 13). Look carefully at verse three; Paul says that they were destined for this. What were they destined for? The only intelligible understanding of the sentence is that this refers to the affliction that they were going through, and therefore they were destined for affliction.

The Greek root word for destined is keimai. One of the explanatory definitions for this word can be found in sub point “a” of the second definition. What it says is, “to be (by God’s intent) set, i.e. destined, appointed.” There is no mistaking the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 3:3. God intends that his people experience affliction before entering into Heaven (also Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17), and has himself placed us in these situations.

B. Philippians 1:29

Another good verse that proves that God purposefully afflicts us is Philippians 1:29,

 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

God not only grants us faith, but likewise grants our suffering. This clearly proves that God “weaves dark threads into our lives.”

C. The Entire Book Of Job

Woods’ claim that God does not produce the difficulties in our lives is especially absurd in the context of the book of Job. In Job, God appointed Satan to afflict Job to the point where Job despaired of life and cursed the day he was born. The common response to this is to say “God didn’t do those things to Job! It was Satan!” This is a modern and extremely novel way of viewing the book.

First of all, God’s response to Job, beginning in chapter 38, was not to deny that it was God who had afflicted him, but that it was indeed God who had afflicted Job, and that God is justified for doing so.

Secondly, not one of the individuals described in the book questioned that it was God who had afflicted Job:

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Thirdly, the very next verse after Job attributes the death of his children to God says that Job was correct in doing so:

And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22).

If it were wrong or blasphemous to say that it was God who caused the terrible things to happen to him, then verse 22 would not say that Job did not charge God with wrongdoing. Since Job is justified in confessing that it was the Lord who took away his property and children, clearly God did indeed do these things to Job, and clearly God deliberately weaves “dark threads” into our lives.

Only one thing that Mr. Woods said was true, and that is, that his teaching is dangerous. His teaching is more dangerous since it is false doctrine. There are so many more examples and ways to demonstrate that Mr. Woods is dead wrong in his assertion, but the above three examples disprove him, and I must move on to the rest of the article.

“Here’s my problem. There are two accounts of God’s sovereignty which are equally questionable. Let’s call the first the ‘hard’ version. In this one, God’s sovereignty is a deterministic philosophy in which human free will is an illusion. You have to put up with bad things happening to you because it’s ultimately for your own good, just as a child has to put up with a measles vaccination. In some unspecified and incomprehensible way, we still have free will and moral agency. But ultimately, the aweful power and majesty of God overrules and overwhelms: all we can do is resign ourselves to his will.”

Incorrect. Free will with reference to God does not exist, since the Bible teaches predestination (Ephesians 1:6, 11, Romans 8:29-30, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Acts 4:28). Also, God works in us to will (Philippians 2:13), so obviously God controls our wills, and therefore our wills are not free from him.

The type of free will that some people speak about has to do with a compatibilist “freedom,” which essentially says that we are free because we make choices that we want to make. This second form of free will is besides the point, and people should stop equivocating between freedom from God’s control and freedom to make choices that we want to make. In response to Woods’ statements, the only thing questionable about what he is describing is affirming free will while simultaneously denying it. If it is simultaneously affirmed and denied, then what is affirmed and denied is either two different types of free will, or otherwise the person who simultaneously affirms and denies it is insane. To summarize, the only thing questionable about what Woods describes is this potential contradiction, and the insanity which results from it. Determinism itself is not questionable, since the Bible teaches it, and all who deny it are either heretics, new converts, or incredibly confused believers.

“Some things that happen are just too terrible to justify by talk of dark threads or universal good. If we’re to believe that God plans the tsunami, the cancer, Islamic State or Stephen Fry’s eye-worm, what’s required of us is not just a leap of faith, but a suspension of our moral judgment. ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter,’ says Isaiah (5:20). God does not plan evil.”

Quite the contrary; God plans all evil. God controlled the waters at the time of the flood, and therefore clearly plans all tsunamis. God has afflicted people with pestilence and disease before, like at the time of Moses in Egypt, and therefore obviously controls modern day cancer. The Old Testament is replete with examples where God controls entire nations, like when he sent Assyria against Israel, so obviously God controls modern day nations like the Islamic State as well.

A.) God controls the waters, and thus God controls tsunamis:

If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land” (Job 12:15)

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:8-11)

You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they [the waters] might not again cover the earth. You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst” (Psalm 104:9-11)

“I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither” (Amos 4:7)

B.) God controls and causes disease, and thus, causes cancer:

he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them” (Psalm 106:15)

Therefore the Lord God of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire” (Isaiah 10:16)

for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 28:23)

C.) God controls the nations, and thus, he controls the Islamic State:

He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23)

For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own” (Habakkuk 1:6)

(See also my previous blog post on God’s control of the nations here)

As for the eye worm, obviously God controls that too.

Next let us consider Woods’ assertion that all of these Biblical truths cause us to suspend our moral judgement. This assumes that God is not moral for doing all of these things, which is blasphemous. Clearly a human creature would not be justified in killing and wounding people (Deuteronomy 32:39), deceiving others (Ezekiel 14:9), or causing snakes to bite people (Numbers 21:6), but God is. Since God is the standard of morality, unless God makes a law which prohibits himself from causing tsunamis, disease, and the rise of evil nations, then God is completely justified in his actions (see also Arbitrary and Unjust, and Theodicy Solved). God can do what he wants:

“all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Daniel 4:35)

Also, there are situations where what would be sinful for us is not sinful for God, as in the case of revenge. God may avenge himself, but we may not:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'” (Romans 12:19)

Therefore, since God does indeed control and do all of these things described above, when Woods says that we have to suspend our moral judgement in order to believe the Biblical witness of God’s complete control over all things, Woods is speaking of a type of morality which does not come from the Bible. Therefore, he is advocating a pagan ethic, opposes scripture, and bases his entire criticism upon his emotional opinions while quoting a Bible verse that is irrelevant to the topic. God most certainly plans and causes all evil. To deny this scriptural truth is to suspend one’s moral judgement, since to deny this is to deny God’s word and to deny the truth and righteousness of God. Woods’ article is for the purpose of encouraging others to participate in open rebellion against God by pretending to be “real, more exciting, more dangerous and more true,” when in reality it is fake, facile, and false:

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7)

Summary

Not everyone should attempt to write theological articles. Woods’ article is just another example of the myths that are propagated by modern evangelical culture. The more Bible ignorant a culture becomes, the more it becomes opposed to the teachings of the Bible. Woods’ comments stem from his arbitrary opinions, from cliches, and from a superficial and dying evangelical Christian culture. To say that God does not have a plan is not edgy, it is not insightful or profound, it is a lie.

How To Not Criticize Christians Who Debate Atheists

Relevant Magazine presents itself as a contemporary Christian magazine that attempts to seriously engage with secular American culture, while simultaneously offering insight into matters of faith and American evangelicalism. What this amounts to is that virtually all of their articles on matters of God and faith are facile, have an unspecified audience, are misguided, and sometimes heterodox if not heretical.

I have come across a few Relevant articles where the author of the article unnecessarily criticizes American evangelicalism. Do not get me wrong; I am one of the first people to critique American evangelicalism, but for opposite reasons. Relevant offers trendy, liberal, whiny, and unintellectual attacks against American evangelical culture, which are usually equivalent to attacks against Christian doctrine and the glorification of stupidity, whereas my criticisms usually revolve around the renunciation of false doctrine. The reason Relevant offers these types of criticisms (one of the worst being John Pavlovitz’s article 5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible; my response can be found here) is because they try to manufacture profundity. They manufacture a random problem within evangelical culture, and then proceed to take potshots at the issue (attacking primarily conservative Bible believing Christians, mind you) so that by the end of it, Relevant gives the impression, to uncritical readers, that they are truly challenging fellow believers. They present themselves as being at the forefront of Christian-secular dialogue, but instead of dialogue, most often what we find is evil and unscriptural advice, trendy topics, incoherent articles, and what I hate most of all, fake profundity and/or manufactured authenticity:

“Oh dang, you can criticize Christian culture by saying we’re not loving enough and we need to be more this and more that?? Your criticism has nothing to do with scriptural doctrine but is only an exposition of your arbitrary opinion?? You must be a flippin’ genius!!!” nonsense.

It is very possible that I have been lead only to the articles which give me intellectual cancer since not all of Relevant’s articles are so bad. It’s just that when an article is bad, man oh man is it bad. I want to respond to a Relevant article that was posted in May 2014 called How Not to Debate an Atheist by Mike McHargue. This article recently came to my attention through Facebook, and I thought it would be fun to write a response even though it is from a year ago.

So now the moment you have all been waiting for. How does Mr. McHargue propose that Christians do not debate with atheists? He has five contentions, so let us find out:

Attack Science

“Many Christians are antagonistic towards the power of science to describe physical reality, even as they take antibiotics and use cell phones. Science has done remarkable things for human civilization since its advent—the Church has yet to pray a robot to Mars. There’s no way around it: science works.”

So many problems:

1. McHargue does not define what he means by science. Does science mean the organized process of observation, the testing of hypotheses and the like? Or what? The word “science” is so often thrown about as some ethereal ideal that no one ever bothers say what they mean.

2. “The power of science to describe physical reality” is likewise vague. What physical reality are we talking about? Furthermore, if an individual rejects that science can properly describe “physical reality” (whatever that is), isn’t reasserting that science accurately describes reality merely begging the question? It is. If an individual says, “Science does not accurately describe reality,” and McHargue comes along and says, “Well you’re wrong because it does,” all McHargue has succeeded in doing is asserting what the first individual denies, which gets us nowhere.

3. McHargue assumes that the justification of science is found in its pragmatic results: “it works” he says. This assertion gets us somewhere, since it is not vague like the previous two points, so let’s examine his assertion. Unfortunately, if we get deep down into the nitty gritty of epistemological issues, McHargue’s pragmatic criterion which he gives as the justification of science is not only arbitrary, and not only can it not be defined, but it fails even on its own terms. Let’s start with the first one:

A. Arbitrary Criterion

Pragmatic results are no substitution for the justification of knowledge nor of the validity of a methodology. What I mean by this is that merely saying that cell phones exist does not prove that this undefined “science” has the capacity to accurately describe reality. If I viewed objects and people in either an Aristotelian or Platonic way, neither of these philosophies would be substantiated after receiving practical results from each. Aristotelianism and Platonism may both “work” in certain situations, but this doesn’t demonstrate their truth. Likewise, pragmatic results stemming from the methodology of scientific inquiry certainly do not justify science’s ability to properly “describe physical reality;” pragmatic results can never justify any epistemology or method of analyzing the world, whether it be science or anything else. Pragmatism is therefore an arbitrary and useless criterion McHargue uses to analyze the validity of science; it just does not work (pun intended).

B. What Does “Work” Mean?

Just as McHargue does not specifically define what he means by science, he also does not specify what he means by work. Whether or not science generally works depends upon its outcome, but we cannot examine this outcome properly unless there is a clear line of delineation between what works and what does not work. Also, we would also have to limit the scope of our investigation, since it is impossible to study all of the outcomes of science. WIthout this clarification, McHargue’s statement is incredibly over general and meaningless. However, even if he could define what works and what does not work, just as I stated above, these results can never substantiate whether or not science properly describes physical reality.

C. Science Fails

To top it off, what about all of the failures, and trial and error when it comes to science? It is commonly stated that it took Thomas Edison a thousand tries to get the light bulb right. The weatherman gets the weather wrong every so often. Scientists make inaccurate predictions, contradict one another, and so on. Also, Newton’s physics have now been replaced by Einstein’s; Copernicus contradicted centuries of previous astronomers by positing a heliocentric solar system; Darwin’s original theory of evolution failed and has been supplemented by the concept of punctuated equilibrium and other ideas. This is not to affirm or deny the success of the scientific method, but I am merely showing how this method has pitfalls and absurdities as well. To only focus upon its supposed successes, and then to unqualifiedly pronounce that “science works” is dishonest, and simple-minded.

4. McHargue also mentions that prayer is unable to put robots on Mars. This is a wild non sequitur. It assumes that prayer and science may be evaluated by the same standard. This is stupid. Eating pizza doesn’t put robots on Mars either. Having a family and watching Dr. Who doesn’t put robots on Mars. So what? The purpose of prayer is to bow to the will of God, as I have explained ad nauseum elsewhere, and it is not for the purpose of accomplishing space exploration. The purpose of eating is to provide nutrients for one’s body. Individuals choose to get married and have families for economic purposes, personal fulfillment etc. Watching Dr. Who is for the purpose of entertainment (or so I am told). If I absurdly judge all other activities with the yardstick of the purpose of the scientific method, then literally nothing else besides scientific inquiry is worthwhile. I could just as easily assert that science does not save anyone from the wrath of God, but this is irrelevant. Worms don’t buy tacos, and red doesn’t dance.

Tell an Atheist They Don’t Have Morals

“If morality comes from God, then people without God can’t be moral, right? Wrong. This isn’t only offensive, it’s provably false. For example, sociological data seems to indicate that atheists tend to be very moral people who are less likely to divorce than average.”

This is a straw man. The objection is not that atheists cannot be moral, like help old ladies cross the street or pay taxes, but that the basis for their supposed morality cannot be derived from any meaningful source. Atheist morality is tentative, insignificant, and unjustified within their worldview. The issue is not that atheists cannot appear to do good things, but that their worldview gives them no ultimate reason to act one way or another.

“We’re doomed if Christianity is about being the most moral people. Jesus was remarkably moral, but the Scriptures tell us we’ll never hit that mark. Instead, we’re called to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled. Those things are very hard to debate against.”

What another glorious non sequitur. My moral failure and need for Christ has literally nothing to do with how bankrupt atheism is in justifying a meaningful morality.

Throw a Cliché

“Have you ever heard this one? ‘God is love, so no God means no love. Only Christians truly know love.’ There’s a fantastic truth in this idea: God is love. Unfortunately, the rest is wrong and offensive. I loved my wife and my children as an atheist, and millions of atheists around the world do the same.”

I generally dislike clichés too, but the reasons for my dislike is because usually clichés are wrong. One cliché I especially detest is when people say “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Depending on whether or not we are speaking of a reprobate, it is most likely that God hates both, but I digress. McHargue here argues that non Christians truly love like Christians do. This is patently false and contrary to scripture. Love is not a mere feeling or cultural concept, but has a very specific definition in the context of the New Testament. Scripture specifically states that only Christians have to capacity to love:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7)

All those who love (agapé) are born of God. By implication, all who are not born of God do not love. This is because love is walking in accordance with God’s commands (2 John 6) which only happens when the law of God is written on a person’s heart (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27) which happens only at regeneration i.e. the new birth. Only believers have the ability to love. McHargue is wrong and ignores scripture.

‘No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.’ This is another quip that gets thrown indiscriminately, but what happens when it hits an atheist who enjoys life, gives time and money to charity and readily forgives Christians for insulting them?”

McHargue seems to think that basic Biblical truth is “insulting.” This second cliché is absolutely true. Apart from Jesus Christ, individuals have nothing to look forward to “but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). To say that there is peace apart from Christ is blasphemy. What happens when this quip hits an atheist? The atheist will hear some Gospel truth in a summarized form. To oppose the truth of that statement is either to trivialize the word “peace” to mean something other than peace with God, or to oppose the Christian faith. Indeed it appears that McHargue unconsciously opposes the Christian faith.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a Christian accuse an atheist of using disbelief as a mask for being anger with God”

McHargue ignores the Biblical justification to this assertion, and thus once again opposes scripture. Romans 1:18-32 describes individuals whom God gives over to idolatrous unbelief, sexual perversion, a debased mind, and many other abominations. Those who fall under these categories are those “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” and they do this because they are fallen and hate God. By the end of the chapter Paul calls those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (all unbelievers) “haters of God” (Romans 1:30). The unbelieving world is at enmity with God, and those who are not born again can do nothing else but hate God.

“That might sometimes be true, but most atheists are no more angry with God than they are with Santa Claus”

McHargue not only appears to be in direct opposition to scripture, or at least oblivious to it, but here he compares God to Santa Claus. Brilliant. How freaking brilliant. This is the type of writer that Relevant attracts to its magazine: Bible ignorant individuals who oppose scripture, and are too incompetent to adequately critique Christians who probably do not engage in these types of practices in the first place.

Ignore Their Insights

“Many atheists are former Christians. Many of them know the Bible well. Often, it wasn’t Biblical ignorance that lead them away from faith, but an analysis of the claims made in Scripture”

This is an absurd oversimplification. And if it was their analysis of scripture that made them walk away from the faith, then a competent Christian ought to explain those portions of scripture which the atheist finds problematic. There are no insights to gain from unbelievers that attack the word of God. The closest insight one could come to is knowing how unbelievers object to scripture in order to be prepared to give a response to explain it.

Debate At All

“Arguments and fiery debates arouse our psychological defenses. Confrontational communications put us on the offense, defense or both—and the goal becomes ‘winning.’ We all know this feeling, and sometimes we’ll keep fighting even after we realize we’re wrong. Arguments aren’t about finding truth, they’re about being right”

Surprise surprise, scripture disagrees:

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)

On the one hand McHargue advises Christians not to debate with unbelievers; on the other hand, scripture explicitly commands us to. McHargue, even on the surface, is clearly incorrect when he asserts that arguments are about only trying to be right. Sometimes this is the case, but debate and dialogue is an incredibly useful tool, and is often necessary when witnessing to others. To stop debate is to hinder the proclamation Gospel.

“When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, He told people to love God with everything they had. When asked the second, He told people to love others as themselves. Another time, Jesus was asked ‘Who is my neighbor?’ In response, He told a very subversive story about a man who was mugged and left on the side of the road. The religious and social elite passed, leaving the man without aide. But one of the most hated groups among Jesus’ peers were the Samaritans, and it was a Samaritan who finally helped the man. “Then Jesus asked, ‘Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?’ The teacher answered, ‘The one who showed pity.’ Jesus said, ‘Go and do the same!'” If Jesus were speaking to the modern church, I wonder if this parable might be about a Pastor and a Deacon who passed by, and The Good Atheist who stopped to help.”

McHargue compares debating atheists to leaving people on the side of the road to die. The amount of absurdity in his conclusion needs no commentary.

Conclusion

I am tired of these types of articles from Relevant magazine, and I am tired of so-called Christians offering useless, unscriptural, unspecific advice concerning issues that pose no real problem. I cannot see how this article aids in the encouragement of believers to submit to Christ. All one finds in this article are the ramblings of an oversimplified criticism which serves to lower the IQ of those who read it. If Relevant or any other “Christian” publication wants to aid the kingdom of God, they ought to provide literature with greater quality and theological precision than this.

The Failure Of The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument is a supposed proof for the existence of God and was first developed by Thomas Aquinas. I first stumbled across the cosmological argument on YouTube as it was explained by Dr. William Lane Craig, though Craig’s argument has some nuances in comparison with Aquinas. In this post I will define the cosmological argument as it was formulated by Thomas Aquinas, and offer critiques against it, and then criticize Craig’s nuanced version as well. Rational proofs for the existence of God ought not to be made by Christians.

The Cosmological Argument

My philosophy textbook quotes Thomas’ formulation of the cosmological argument for the existence of God in the following way:

“It is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects…It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on for infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover…Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God” (Fieser 233).

Problem #1 – The Definition Of Motion

Thomas describes motion in Aristotelian terms as passing from a state of potentiality to actuality, but then he merely uses an analogy in order to define them, as Gordon Clark observes:

“Unfortunately the concepts of potentiality and actuality remain undefined. Aristotle tried to explain them by analogy. In the context, motion is used in the explanation and then the concepts of potentiality and actuality are used to define motion. The argument therefore is circular” (Clark 36).

Thomas uses the concept of potentiality and actuality in order to define motion, but only gives us an analogy of what the two terms mean, and then continues his argument by speaking of potentiality and actuality by appealing to motion. As Clark points out, Thomas’ statements are both vague and circular.

Problem #2 – Begging The Question

Begging the question is a logical fallacy, i.e. a flaw in reasoning. To beg the question is to assume in the premises that which one is trying to prove; it is asserting that which is in dispute in order to conclude with that which is in dispute. Thomas begs the question when he makes the following statement:

“But this [succession of motion] cannot go on for infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover…”

Thomas objects to the idea that objects put in motion by other objects cannot go on for infinity since this would mean that there would be no first mover. However, the purpose of Thomas’ whole argument is to demonstrate that a first mover exists in the first place. Thomas assumes the existence of a first mover in order to conclude that a first mover exists, which is fallacious. Essentially Thomas posits that cause and effect cannot go on for eternity since God exists. Since God exists, therefore God exists. Thomas does not properly deal with the possibility of motion going back for eternity, and utilizes fallacious reasoning to disregard it.

Problem #3 – From Sense Perception To Causality

I am convinced that causality cannot be demonstrated when we begin with our sense perception. If we grant Thomas that he has properly defined motion, potentiality, and actuality, it is still a logical leap to begin with our observations of motion and to assert the existence of causality. Whether or not one object causes another object to move cannot be observed, but is an assumption that we impose on our observations. To give an example, if an earthquake occurred every time I sneezed, then I may be tempted to say that my sneezes cause  the earthquakes. One may object to me, saying that there is no necessary connection between me sneezing and earthquakes. However, if you told me that every time a billiard ball hits another billiard ball, that the first ball causes the second ball to move, I could likewise deny any necessary connection between the two. Even though it seems extremely counter-intuitive and silly to some who are first being introduced to this concept, it is impossible to conclude that necessary connection (i.e. causality) exists merely upon the basis of sense perception. The empiricist philosopher David Hume makes some relevant statements:

“When we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connection; any quality, which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other … there is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connection” (Fieser 472).

When beginning with empiricism, we cannot conclude that the motions we observe have a cause which in turn have a cause. Thomas posits that motion has a cause by saying “Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another,” yet this universal claim cannot be justified through limited observations, contrary to Thomas. At any rate, even if this principle that “whatever is in motion is put in motion by another” could be justified, Thomas does not justify it but merely asserts it, and is therefore another reason why his argument fails.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

I am sure that there a many other nuances given to this argument, but I want to make some observations about Dr. William Lane Craig’s description of the kalam cosmological argument as well. Craig states the following:

Premise one: Whatever begins to exist has a cause (things don’t come into being from nothing)

Premise two: The universe began to exist, there’s good philosophical and scientific evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past, but had a beginning.

Conclusion: Therefore a cause of the universe exists.

And then you do a conceptual analysis of what it is to be a cause of space and time, matter and energy, and I think you’re able to show that a beginning-less, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal creator of the universe exists, which is the core concept of God.”

Observation #1

Let’s grant all of these premises and conclusions. The problem still remains for the Christian apologist of how to limit these results to the Christian God of the Bible. These conclusions can relate to any other religion that has a personal monotheistic god. Judaism and Islam are the obvious examples (in fact, the kalam cosmological argument refers to an Islamic formulation, so Craig is using an Islamic rendering of the cosmological argument in order to support Christianity), but any other amount of lesser-known monotheistic religions could appeal to this scheme as well. This is a terrible apologetic for Christianity since the results are not unique to Christianity.

Observation #2

Let’s grant the three premises for the sake of examination. Even if the premises are true, they do not necessitate the conclusion of a personal deity, or even a deity at all. All that we can conclude is that there is an uncaused, immaterial, timeless etc. cause of the universe. Saying that this cause is a deity or that this deity is personal is an invalid conclusion. Also, to say that this deity is personal assumes the reality of revelation or that we can have a relationship with this deity, none of which the premises necessitate. Even when all premises are valid, this is a bad proof for a personal god, and an even worse proof in favor of Christianity.

Observation #3

It is possible for people to reject the second premise. The main evidence that I am aware of that supposedly supports the idea that the universe had a beginning, is found in the Doppler Effect. I do not know how it all works, but researchers have a device that they can point in the direction of parts of the sky, and what they observe is that the universe is expanding everywhere. Since the universe is expanding, people infer that the universe was once much smaller, and if we go back in time far enough, we can conclude that there was a beginning to the expanding universe, and therefore the universe is not eternal. Even though it’s not commonly accepted, nonetheless someone may still deny that the universe had a beginning. One could say that the universe fluctuates between expansion and contraction, just as when a person breathes in their chest expands, but recedes again to its normal size when the person breathes out. I am not saying this is a probable position, but I just want to show that it is possible to reject the second premise, and thus to reject Craig’s argumentation.

Conclusion

The thing about these type of rational proofs for the existence of God is not only that they are all invalid, but that even if they were valid, they would be a terrible apologetic for the Christian faith. These arguments do not help proclaim the Gospel, or the Christ that has given us the Gospel, but rather these type of arguments proclaim an abstract deity that might possibly exist. I do not see how a formulation like this can cause a person to be convicted for their sin, repent, and place their faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. It’s a big world with many people so perhaps this could have happened, but I doubt these type of proofs for the existence of God are any help at all. Certainly Thomas’ original argument was completely worthless. Thanks for reading.

Works Cited

Clark, Gordon. Religion, Reason, and Revelation. Unicoi: Trinity Foundation, 1995. Print.

Frieser, James, and Norman Lillegard. A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

A Perfect Example Of Cultural Relativism

The Connection

This post is a synthesis of two previous posts that I have written: (1) The Plague of Cultural Relativism and (2) What We Will Not “Admit” About The Bible? In the former post I criticize a modern tendency to accept relativism to the point of absurdity. The people that I criticize are those who inconsistently (1) reject definitive factual and moral judgments, (2) those who make definitive moral judgments by denouncing those who make definitive judgments, (3) those who assume the validity of all opinions, etc. Here’s a summary describing the mindset of these people:

“They deny any opinion besides their own while affirming that all opinions are valid. They say that you are wrong for saying others are wrong. They make definite judgements while condemning definite judgements. They say that you ought not impose your worldview upon them while they impose their worldview upon you.”

In the second post listed, I critique an article written by John Pavlovitz where he lists five things about the Bible that he wishes professing Christians would “admit.” I critiqued his article because his presentation of the issues is either incredibly vacuous, ill-defined, unbiblical, or self-contradictory. I was astounded that any self-respecting magazine that professes to be Christian would allow such a shallow piece of writing on their website or printed issues.

What these two posts have in common is that John Pavlovitz, the writer whose article I critiqued in the second post listed, is the perfect example of the cultural relativism that I describe in the first post mentioned. Pavlovitz in his personal blog post called “Heresies, Schmeresies, And Letters From Pharisees” engages in the same irrational, relativistic reasoning as those whom I have previously described. In this post I want to indicate how exactly Pavlovitz gives in to this mindset and explain the flaws of his reasoning.

Summary Of His Blog Post

Pavlovitz has a very strange way of going about writing his post. He explains that he was mailed a letter by a woman he did not know, “notifying me of my deceptive, heretical, false teachings, and calling me to immediate repentance.” Instead of providing the text of the letter for his audience to examine, and instead of specifically addressing the woman’s concerns, Pavlovitz wholly disregards everything she says. Rather than taking the time to biblically defend his theological positions or his actions, Pavlovitz settles to call the woman a Pharisee, and then proceeds to make incoherent claims and criticisms. How Pavlovitz addresses the issue is undeniably inadequate. His self contradictory claims (which perfectly represent the culturally relativism I have elsewhere described) will be examined and pointed out.

Constant Self-Contradiction

1. “As I poured over her neatly-written, well-articluated, polite-yet-condescending jabs at my suggested lack of Biblical knowledge and sin-coddling ways, I really wanted to be angry, but what I immediately became was sorry…I was sorry for her confidence.”

This is the chief reason that Pavlovitz disregards the woman’s criticism: because she was confidentApparently in order for Pavlovitz to take you seriously you have to be double-minded or unsure about what you are talking about. For Pavlovitz, confidence is a negative character quality. Also along these same lines, Pavlovitz disparages what he calls “black and white religion,” i.e. religion with distinct doctrinal/moral boundaries and definitions. All this is self-contradictory and anti-biblical.

All who object to those who make confident, black and white assertions are guilty of making black and white assertions themselves. In order to object to a definite proposition, merely upon the basis that it is a definite proposition, those objecting are forced to make definite propositions also. Pavlovitz engages in the very same thing that he criticizes the woman for doing, namely, for making black and white assertions. By disparaging definite claims, he makes definite claims. His objection on this point is hopelessly incoherent. John W. Robbins also explains this error:

“Those who parrot, ‘There are no blacks and whites’ intend the statement to be understood as white, that is, as a correct statement, without any mixture of error or evil.  If the statement itself were gray, then it would be partly wrong, and nobody would be required to believe it. Those who assert, ‘There are no blacks and whites, only shades of gray’ do not intend the statement to be an evil statement or a false statement, or a mixture of right and wrong. They want us to take it as white, even while they deny the existence of white” (The Church Irrational).

2. “She spoke from a place of absolute certainty and moral superiority. She wrote with a self-assurance that assumed total correctness; as if the words she’d composed had been dictated by, (or at least skimmed and signed-off on) by the Creator Himself.”

A. It is ironic that Pavlovitz would complain about this woman’s supposed “moral superiority” we he himself says that he feels sorry for her. To feel sorry for someone implies a sense of superiority, therefore Pavlovitz implies his own sense of superiority while demeaning the woman’s supposed superiority. Pavlovitz obliviously engages in the same behavior that he perceives the writer of this letter to be engaged in. Thus, his objection is hypocritical. The only reason he mentions this in the first place is an excuse to invalidly disregard the woman’s claims.

B. Furthermore, he repudiates the woman for being sure about her position even though Pavlovitz is also sure about his own position. Apparently the woman has no right to be confident in her assertions, yet Pavlovitz feels justified engaging in this same confidence when he confidently accuses her of thinking that her letter is inspired by God. I could just as easily accuse Pavlovitz of thinking his blog is inspired by God for making these claims, but it would be just as arbitrary and useless. Suffice it to say that, once again, Pavlovitz engages in the same behavior he erroneously criticizes.

C. Pavlovitz also objects that  “She wrote with a self-assurance that assumed total correctness.” Does Pavlovitz think he is totally correct in objecting to this? If Pavlovitz does not think his assertion is totally correct, then we may rightfully disregard it. However, if Pavlovitz does think his own criticism is totally correct, then he assumes his analysis is totally correct while criticizing someone for assuming there own total correctness. This is hypocritical and self-refuting.

3. “The problem for the Pharisees, (and for my poison pen pal), is that this kind of certainty when speaking of God is almost always a recipe for horrible failure. Thinking you’ve figured out an unfigureouttable God is very dangerous ground, especially when trying to morally look down on other people from it.”

A. This is a fantastic example of self-contradiction. It is true that the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God is historical, but Pavlovitz fails to define what he means by it. He places no qualifiers or explanations on his claim that God is “unfigureouttable,” and so we can assume that he either does not know what he is talking about, or he is purposely trying to confuse his readers. I assert the former.

Since Pavlovitz does not qualify or specify the meaning of God’s “unfigureouttablenature, we can infer that we cannot know anything about God at all. We cannot know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we cannot know that he is holy, we cannot know of his judgements, purposes, will, or acts throughout history, or anything else. Since Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3 as knowing the Father and Jesus whom he has sent, apparently Pavlovitz denies the possibility of eternal life, and thus the Gospel is denied, scripture is discarded, and we might as well submit ourselves to atheism or pagan mysticism.

However, as terrifying as all of these options ought to be to professing Christians, I have not yet mentioned the self-contradiction. The self-contradiction is found in the unqualified assertion itself, namely, that God is “unfigureouttable.” If we cannot know anything about God, or figure out anything about God from scripture, then how did Pavlovitz figure that out? Making the unqualified assertion that God cannot be known, that we cannot figure out any of his attributes from scripture or anything else, presupposes that Pavlovitz has figured something out about God. But if God cannot be figured out in any sense, then we could not even figure that out.

B. Once again, Pavlovitz disparages certainty while making certain claims. He says that “this kind of certainty when speaking of God is almost always a recipe for horrible failure.” He claims we cannot have certainty when speaking about God, while making claims about God that he is certain of. This level of cognitive dissonance is truly amazing. If he is not certain about this claim, then we may disregard it. If he is certain about it, then he refutes himself.

C. Pavlovitz continually complains about those that look upon others with moral superiority, but this really amounts to him complaining about people who say that he’s wrong. When he says, “Thinking you’ve figured out an unfigureouttable God is very dangerous ground, especially when trying to morally look down on other people from it,” Pavlovitz is really just complaining about those that correct his faulty view of God and the Bible. By objecting to people that advocate a particular view of God and who criticize those that do not hold to their own view, Pavlovitz advocates a particular view of God and criticizes those that do not hold to his view.

4. “I’m always quite willing to believe that I could be wrong.”

The issue is not whether or not Pavlovitz has the hypothetical ability to admit that he is wrong sometimes. The issue Pavlovitz ought to concern himself with, if he is going to respond to this woman at all, is demonstrating that he is not deceptive and heretical as she claims. Pavlovitz ought to specifically respond to the woman’s claims rather than incoherently disregard them based upon criticisms that also apply to him.

Pavlovitz is insistent upon accusing his opposer of claiming all knowledge, when she only claims some. He views claiming some certain knowledge about God and theology is arrogant and Pharisaical. However, the ones who are arrogant are not those who have the audacity to claim that they possess proper doctrine, but those who deny the possibility of proper doctrine. By disparaging the possibility of proper doctrine, Pavlovitz supports false doctrine:

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

Criticizing others for claiming Christian orthodoxy and touting yourself as humble for being unsure of your own theological positions is not humble, but arrogant. Judging from this post, Pavlovitz does not agree with the sound words of Christ, since his words are blatantly incoherent and self-contradictory. His irrationality and indifference to proper doctrine demonstrates that “he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing,” and should probably not be a pastor. Undoubtedly, if Paul was not an apostle, Pavlovitz would invalidly disregard Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6 as Pharisaical, since Paul had the audacity to make any truth claims at all.

A Summary Of The Incoherence

Just as with my previous post, The Plague of Cultural Relativism, I have indicated a unique type of irrationalism that is prevalent in our western culture. John Pavlovitz refutes himself as soon as he begins to speak. He is certain that people ought not to be certain, he is confident in his claim that people ought not to make confident claims, he criticizes people for criticizing, he repudiates “black and white religion” while making black and white claims about religion, and he assumes his own total correctness when he objects to the possibility of total correctness. He claims to have figured out that God is unqualifiedly “unfigureouttable.” He complains that people ought not to accuse others of having a wrong view of God, yet in doing so he accuses the woman of having a wrong view of God.

To top it off, Pavlovitz claims “I’m just not satisfied that absolute certainty is ever part of the deal [of faith].” Is he absolutely certain about that? If he is absolutely certain that absolute certainty is not a part of faith, then he refutes and sontradicts himself. Furthermore, he contradicts scripture. Again. Scripture exhorts us to be certain:

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8). Pavlovitz is irrational, uncertain, and unstable in all of his ways.

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). Paul exhorts us to know the hope of the Gospel and teaches us in his letters that we may know the truth. In fact John tells the recipients of his letter that they know the truth (1 John 2:21)! To reject the possibility of knowing true doctrine is itself an untrue doctrine.

John W. Robbins perfectly sums up Pavlovitz’s mindset:

“The reluctance to make distinctions, the antipathy to render moral judgements, all this means that proper distinctions are not being made and righteous judgements are not being rendered. It doesn’t mean that judgements are distinctions are not being made at all” (The Church Irrational).

By being reluctant to render true judgments, Pavlovitz renders false, evil, and self-refuting judgments. I would exhort him to repent of his sloppy thinking, and to take the woman’s letter more seriously. Or otherwise, he should not notify his readers about the criticism he receives unless he plans on specifically addressing the issues. John Pavlovitz displays little to no rationality, and can be deemed a cultural relativist.

What We Will Not “Admit” About The Bible?

Who is reading this fluff? I cannot possibly comprehend the demographic that Relevant Magazine is writing for. Virtually all of the posts that I have seen from this site are trivial. Any organization that pretends to be Christian that has a name like “Relevant” is inevitably trendy, pretending to be profound while giving facile commentary. Half of their posts on God and Christianity are pathetic excuses for intellectual thought and aid in confusing its readers. A recent post that I read, written by John Pavlovitz called, “5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible” is a great example of my frustration with this magazine.

“Admit”

To “admit” something is to confess something reluctantly, something that you previously did not wish to acknowledge. Therefore, the title of the blog implies that Christians are generally reluctant to acknowledge the truth of five specific propositions about the Bible.

The purpose of using the word “admit” is to create the false assumption that all Christians are thuper scared of being “authentic,” “real,” and “messy,” that all Christians promote a false image of themselves as “having everything figured out” and “having it all together,” so to speak. In opposition to this faux dilemma, here comes Pavlovitz to save the day! He will tell us everything wrong with our actions! He will expose our shallowness! He will save us from the crippling fear that all of us experience! He will courageously say what no one else has the guts to say! And…Well, what does he say? Not only does he start with this baseless assumption that Christians will not “admit” certain things about the Bible, his five examples are hilariously vacuous.

1. “The Bible Isn’t a Magic Book”

This is Pavlovitz’s first proposition which he says Christians do not “admit” about the Bible. Brilliant. So Christians are thuper scared, trembling in our boots in fact, to admit that the Bible is not a “magic” book? This assumes that Christians assert that the Bible is a “magic” book; I would like to ask Johnny, who are the Christians who claim this? However, I am getting ahead of myself. “Magic” is a vague word to begin with, so clearly Pavlovitz must contextually define it. Once we know what he means by “magic,” we will know what he thinks Christians generally claim about the Bible.

Definition of “Magic”

The title of this first section is as bewildering as the definition he places upon the word “magic.” When one reads this section, the only main point that Pavlovitz gives is that the Bible is made up of 66 books, with a variety of authors, and written in different genres of literature:

“[The Bible] isn’t really a book at all. It’s a lot of books…Its 66 individual books run the diverse gamut of writing styles…diverse writers each had very different target audiences”

Essentially, the only thing that Pavlovitz means by Christians regarding the Bible as a “Magic Book” is regarding the Bible as a “Single Book.” All Pavlovitz has accomplished is using a silly word to criticize an imaginary demographic in order to convey a truth that is manifestly obvious. How Pavlovitz could possibly twist the definition of “magic” to mean “Christians wrongly view the Bible as a single book and not made up of many books” is absurd on its face. Even if Christians did view the Bible as a single book without taking its diversity into account, no one could seriously say that this is equivalent to viewing it as a “magic” book. I view George Orwell’s novel 1984 as a single book; does this mean that I regard it as a “magic” book? Of course not.

The other problem with his analysis, which I already implied, is assuming that Christians do not know that the Bible is made up of many books, written by various authors, in different writing styles and genres and languages. What “Christians” is he referring to? Who are these people who will not “admit” that the Bible is composed of 66 books? They do not exist.

2. “The Bible Isn’t as Clear as We’d Like It To Be”

The second proposition that Pavlovitz wants Christians to “admit” is that the Bible is not clear. He says that the Bible is unclear and complex, and then appeals to the fact that people disagree on various topics in order to prove this. This criticism is fallacious because it assumes that the foolishness and misunderstandings of people prove that the Bible is unclear. In reality this proves the total depravity of humanity, not Biblical incoherence; Pavlovitz’s own explanation contradicts his claim that the Bible is unclear:

“Often, (especially when arguing), Christians like to begin with the phrase, ‘The Bible clearly says…’ followed by their Scripture soundbite of choice. Those people aren’t always taking the entire Bible into account….the answer may not be as clear and straightforward as we like to pretend it is.”

On the one hand he is criticizing that Christians will not “admit” that the Bible is unclear, and then he contradicts himself by saying that Christians ought to take the entire Bible into account when making dogmatic claims. Either the Bible is unclear and we cannot draw definitive conclusions from it and therefore the Bible is the problem, or the Bible is clear and we can draw definitive conclusions from it and therefore the problem is people not reading it in context. Which is it?

What is most troubling of all is not the inherent contradiction in Pavlovitz’s reasoning, but his attack upon the clarity of scripture. Attacks upon the clarity of scripture are made by Roman Catholic heretics, charismatic mystics, and everyone that does not derive their theology from the Bible. Saying that scripture is, for the most part, obscure or mysterious is an excuse to believe false doctrine. Martin Luther would know; Erasmus made this same claim 500 years ago in order cling to his false free will-Roman Catholic theology. Here is some of Luther’s criticism against Erasmus on this point:

“what is the design of the apostles by proving their preaching from the scriptures? Is it that they may obscure their own darkness by still greater darkness? What was the intention of Christ, in teaching the Jews to ‘search the scriptures’ (John 5:39), as testifying of him? Was it that he might render them doubtful concerning faith in him?” (Bondage of the Will)

If the Bible is obscure, then we have nothing. It is the pinnacle of arrogance to insult God’s revelation when the problem is our own. If Pavlovitz had a clue about what he was arguing, he would realize that demonstrating the existence of improper Biblical interpretation is not equivalent to proving that scripture is unclear.


3. “The Bible Was Inspired by God, Not Dictated by God”

Here again Pavlovitz gives us an incoherent argument. He reasons that God inspired the Bible but he did not dictate it. Once again, just as in the second point, Pavlovitz is attacking the authority of scripture whether he realizes it or not:

“The Bible is ‘God’s Word,’ but we need to be careful about what we mean when we say it was ‘written’ by God. These are the words of men who were compelled by God to tell, not only what they claim to have heard God say, but things happening in and around them—their struggles, personal reasons for writing and specific experience of God. Of course they were inspired by God, but they remained inspired human beings, not God-manipulated puppets who checked their free will at the door and transcribed God’s monologues like zombies.”

Definition of “Inspiration”

From what I gather from the drivel above, Pavlovitz appears to be using the word “inspired” in a similar way to how artists find “inspiration” for their works of art. Just as a cloud can “inspired” me to paint a picture, the prophets’ and apostles’ personal experiences with God “inspire” them to write about him. This completely throws all historical understandings of the inspiration of scripture out the window. With this definition, my writings about God are just as “inspired” since anyone could say that God “inspired” them to feel or think a certain way. This is exactly what charismatics and people like Sarah Young do. When Pavlovitz pretends to hold to Biblical “inspiration,” he commits the fallacy of equivocation by deceitfully applying a definition to the word “inspiration” which is different from its common usage. With this new definition of “inspiration” he is not even on topic, but posits a different theory of the origin and meaning of scripture altogether.

Pavlovitz’s description of Biblical inspiration amounts to apostasy. I say this with all seriousness. He rejects that scripture speaks the actual words of God. Every place where it describes God speaking in the first person, or any section in the Bible that begins with the phrase “Thus says the Lord,” are not really God’s words, but “what [the writers] claim to have heard God say.” This is heresy, yet those who write for so-called “Relevant” Magazine are touted as impressive thinkers who give their audience unique insight into God, faith, and the Bible. In reality they are liberal enemies of the faith and ought to be opposed and refuted, or otherwise, encouraged to repent.

Free Will and Scripture’

Free will does not exist. Free will is the complete inversion of the Christian worldview. The human will since the fall of Adam has been in bondage to sin and cannot think, will, or act in a way that is pleasing to God until one is regenerated. Furthermore, not only is the will in utter bondage to corruption and sin, God controls people’s wills since he “works all things after the council of his own will” as Ephesians 1:11 states. The Bible is replete with examples of God hardening hearts, sending lying spirits into the mouths of false prophets, and determining all events for his own purposes. The free will vomit that shoots forth from the mouth of modern evangelicalism is a further evidence of our culture’s complete rejection of the Protestant Reformation, and acceptance of apostasy.

To get to the issue, Pavlovitz claims that those who wrote scripture were “not God-manipulated puppets who checked their free will at the door and transcribed God’s monologues like zombies.” It is abundantly evident to any critical thinker that words like “puppets” and “zombies” are wholly vacuous in the context of this discussion. Let me try to reduce the argument to make it more clear:

(1) Pavlovitz is under the impression that people have free will (which he does not define).

(2) Pavlovitz claims that people become “puppets” and “zombies” if their wills are determined by God.

(3) Since people are not “puppets” and “zombies,” and since people possess this undefined notion of “free will,” God does not control people’s actions, thoughts, or wills.

(4) Since God does not control people’s wills, the writers of scripture were inspired when they wrote, but God had no control over what they wrote.

These claims are anti-Christian. Lets examine a text of scripture and see if Pavlovitz’s reasoning holds up:

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Despite Pavlovitz’s anti-Christian claim that scripture is not clear in objection number 2, and also despite his arbitrary objection against citing verses to support one’s theology, I am going to use 2 Peter 1:20-21 to refute him from a scriptural perspective. The phrase found in verse 20, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation,” refutes Pavlovitz’s claim that the Biblical books “are the words of men who were compelled by God to tell…what they claim to have heard God say.” The authors of the Bible were not merely giving their own interpretations about what they thought God was saying, but they wrote what God was actually saying. Furthermore, verse 21 eliminates Pavlovitz’s free will theory. The writers of scripture most certainly did not possess free will when writing and pronouncing the prophecies of God, since Peter plainly states, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man.” How can scripture be produced by a prophet’s imaginary free will when no prophecy is produced by the will of man? It cannot. The authors of scripture were clearly directed by the Holy Spirit, constrained to speak and write the words God caused them to speak, since “they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Many other texts speak of God’s control over the will of the individual prophesying. “Free will” has nothing to do with it:

“And he answered and said, ‘Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?'” (Numbers 23:12)

“If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

“He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?” (Matthew 22:43-44)

God caused the writers of scripture to say what he wanted them to say. All that is in scripture is given to us for instruction by God, and was not produced by the will of man. The reason real Christians will not “admit” that “The Bible was inspired by God, not dictated by God,” is because Pavlovitz’s view of scriptural inspiration is heretical and wrong.


4. “We All Pick and Choose the Bible We Believe, Preach and Defend”

This complaint is hardly distinguishable from number 2. Yet again he guards against “cherry-picking” the Bible, and writes this blog to exhort Christians to “admit” our misapplications of scripture. No one ever thinks that they are cherry-picking, so why write a blog to exhort people to admit that they are wrong when they obviously do not think that are wrong? Anyone can accuse anyone of “cherry-picking.” That is not the issue. The issue is arriving at the proper understanding of a text, not blindly accusing people of picking and choosing. “Cherry-picking” is perfectly acceptable if the verse succinctly addresses a particular issue and is exegeted properly.

Pavlovitz creates this fourth complaint so that he can now object to people applying scripture to their lives and theological disputes. Whenever anyone, like myself, opposes Pavlovitz’s assertions with scripture, he now feels justified in accusing his opponents of “picking and choosing” what we want to believe from a Bible that is hopelessly unclear, when in reality we are properly applying the teaching of scripture, and in reality Pavlovitz picks and chooses what he wants to believe by rejecting the Bible. All of Pavlovitz’s facile objections and challenges are really just manipulative language used for the purpose of confusing believers and justifying false doctrine, nothing else. If you refute Pavlovitz, inevitably he will accuse you of “cherry-picking.” If you quote scripture to Pavlovitz, he can now utterly disregard you, reasoning that scripture is “complex” and “unclear.”

However, he is right that many professing Christians pick and choose what they want to believe. This is why not all professing Christians are Calvinists, and why so many blindly believe that free will exists.


5. “God Is Bigger Than The Bible”

Once again, Pavlovitz uses vague language for his titles, so they must be defined contextually in his explanation:

“I wish more Christians would admit that the Bible, at its most perfect and inspired, is a collection of words about the ocean. They are not the ocean itself….The Bible is not God.”

Pavlovitz uses the ocean and its vastness as a metaphor to describe God. This guy thinks that Christians do not confess that the Bible is not God. I cannot even comprehend how stupid a claim this is. Pavlovitz seriously thinks that he is teaching us something by telling us that the Bible is not God… Moving on:

“The words in the Bible point to someone for whom words simply fail. The words are filled with good and lovely things that give us some frame of reference, but ultimately, God is far too big to be contained in those words.”

Pavlovitz’s attack on scripture is now complete, given that he denies that the Bible can give us any knowledge of God whatsoever. We cannot know anything about God, what he is, who he is, what he has done or what he will do since Pavlovitz claims that words are insufficient. Therefore, we cannot know Christ, we cannot know the Gospel, we cannot know God’s will, we cannot know God’s attributes, we cannot know that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Pavlovitz not only claims that the Bible is unclear, but that the Bible is not revelation. The Bible, so he says, is not the word of God which reveals God’s character and revelation, but is merely “some frame of reference.”

What is so ironic, is that in order to know that God is so vast and unknowable, Pavlovitz would need a reliable source of revelation. Since he rejects that the Bible is divine revelation and claims that it is merely a frame of reference written by “men who were compelled by God to tell…what they claim to have heard God say” and do not to say what God actually said, Pavlovitz cannot even know that God is big and vast. Since the Bible is a worthless resource that cannot properly describe God, it likewise would not be able to tell Pavlovitz that God is vast and unknowable.

Conclusion

Pavlovitz presents us with a confused, misdirected, and heretical analysis of what he thinks Christians do not admit and ought to admit about the Bible. I would encourage him to repent, or to at least severely clarify himself. I would exhort brothers and sisters in Christ to steer clear of Relevant Magazine unless your attention given to it is for the purpose of criticism. Perhaps I have not reviewed all of what it has to offer, but with articles such as these, I am not optimistic that the magazine is any better than what I think of it now. With all of this said, I offer my blog post up to criticism and interaction, and wish you the best.