Browsing articles in "Apologetics"
Feb 1, 2011
neil

Maybe this is why Dawkins won’t debate William Craig

I posted a few weeks ago an interview featuring the man Richard Dawkins has refused to debate: William Lane Craig. Thanks to Tony Watkins for pointing me in the direction of this youtube post that shows Craig in action against the other self-publicist Christopher Hitchens. Dr. Craig graciously but masterfully exposes the holes in Christopher Hitchens logic as well as his views.  I can’t see Dawkins wanting to put himself through that same experience anytime soon.

And for any seeking the statement where Dawkins gives his reasons for refusing to debate Craig you can see it here.

Jan 29, 2011
neil

What I’d like to say to Ricky Gervais about God

Piers Morgan has taken over from Larry King on CNN and in his first week conducted an hour long interview with Ricky Gervais just a day or two after he ruffled feathers hosting the Golden Globe Awards show.

The interview is well worth watching not least for Ricky’s take on God.  As Ricky brought the 68th Golden Globes Award show to an end he said “Thank you to God for making me an atheist,” something Piers was keen to follow up in his interview.

I guess we’ve all heard comments like this when we’ve talked about matters of faith over a pint. I thought I might make a few observations on some of Ricky’s arguments for atheism to help us to meet such comments as we come across them in our conversations.

So let’s look at three statements that Ricky makes in the interview:

1.  ‘Unlike religious people I look at all religions equally’

Because it’s a throw away line in an interview it’s not altogether apparent what Ricky meant by this but what seems clear is that as far as he is concerned atheism is tolerant where religion is not and one assumes by virtue of that fact a better worldview to hold.

But take a closer look and I’m not too sure how a position that says ‘all religion is wrong’ is more tolerant than the position put forward by Christians. It seems to me that both the atheist and the Christian are making exactly the same claim to exclusive truth.  Christianity says there is only one truth and that is found in Christ.  Atheism says tehre is only one truth and that is found in rejecting all religion as wrong. Is one position more tolerent than the other? I don’t see how.

2. ‘Christians haven’t got a monopoly on good’

I’m not aware of Christians ever claiming that they did! The crucial point I would wish to make to Ricky over our pint is not that its only Christians who can choose to be good but it is Christianity and not atheism that makes a compelling case for why we must be good.

The difference I’d seek to highlight is that the Christian has a reason – more than that an obligation – to be good because of the demands of God. The atheist may choose to be good but can equally well choose to be bad. In fact good and bad are just arbitrary labels – badges of convenience – without any reference point to ground them.

The atheist philosopher Kai Nielson once said:

We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that really rational beings unhoodwinked by myth or ideology need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists.  Reason does not decide here.  The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one.  Reflection on it depresses me.  Pure practical reason even with a good knowledge of the facts will not take you to morality.

So I think I would seek to persuade Ricky that atheism frees people to be as bad as they wish. Whereas Christianity has a monopoly over reasons to be good rather than being bad.

3) ‘Of course I believe in love…of course I believe in the beauty of nature’

Ricky is pretty put out by the thought that Christians claim that only they can love and once again I’d be seeking to help him understand that, as with the argument for goodness, Christians are not suggesting that only they can love or live a moral life.

The big issue though is who decides what love is and is there any rational foundation for love if we beleive that the universe is ultimately a dark and loveless place.

Richad Dawkins acknowleges;

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice.  The universe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless existence.  DNA neither knows nor cares DNA just is and we dance to its music.

Conclusion

But more than anything else the purpose of apologetics is not winning arguments but seeking to win hearts and minds for Christ. More than anything I’d want to help Ricky to see that his very concern for goodness, beauty, love (and no doubt truth?) are pointers away from atheism (which explains them all away) and pointers to the God who is good and beautiful, love and truth.

Jan 22, 2011
neil

More reasons to believe than at any point in history

You would think – and the man in the pub almost certainly thinks – that the further in time we are away from the life and times of Jesus the less we can know about him with any degree of certainty.  If true that would be reason enough not to give Christianity a second look. But the facts work in exactly the opposite direction. The more time that has elapsed the more evidence we discover, for example, that the gospels that record the life and death and resurrection of Jesus are the gospels of antiquity and are a reliable record with regards the events that took place.  And yet over that same time there remains an unbroken silence with regards any other 1st century documents that work the other way.

The Christian in the 21st century has more good reasons to believe that his faith is true than believers at any other time since the death of the apostles.

Here’s a great presentation of some of the arguments from Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of the Ehrman project.

Jan 9, 2011
neil

The man Dawkins won’t debate

William Lane Craig is one of the worlds leading defenders of the Christian faith. Author of 16 scholarly books including The Kalam Cosmological Argument, Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide and The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

Craig holds two doctorates (one from Birmingham University!) and is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.  He is a member of a number of societies including the American Philosophical Association.

Bill Craig has debated a number of leading American atheists but Dawkins won’t debate him! It was a surprise to both of them when they found themselves on opposite sides of a debate between three theists and three atheists on the question of ‘Does the universe have a purpose‘ in Mexico in November of 2010.

In conversation with Justin Brierley on Premier Radio Prof. Craig gives his take on Dawkins and the debate.

If you want to watch the whole thing you can below. For Lane Craig’s own website click here.





Dec 28, 2010
neil

Only gay in the village?

The BBC comedy Little Britain may not have been your cup of tea but most of us have some idea of who Daffyd Thomas is. He lives in the Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi and the comedy kicks in when poor deluded Daffyd thinks he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. In fact half the village is homosexual but Daffyd can’t or won’t see it.  Unable to cope with the fact that everyone (including his parents) are quite OK with his sexuality and that even his best friend, Myfanwy, the local bar-maid is a lesbian, Daffyd stays the centre of attention as he persists in playing the ‘victim’, a misunderstand and isolated gay man in a straight world.

What makes it funny is the lengths that Daffyd has to go to in refusing to recognize the gay community around him. The fact that it is a gay man revelling in his status as ‘victim’ makes it particularly powerful. But the sketches also challenge the assumptions and thought-processes behind all those, gay or straight, who wish to ignore the sizable gay community in their own town or city in a desire to keep homosexuality on the margin of society.

But clever as the big idea is that makes the sketch work new research suggests that perhaps the voice of the gay community, in our media in particular, is out of proportion to it’s size.

How many people are gay in the UK?

The most common statistic is still the 1 in 10 figure associated with the Kinsey Report. The study reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55“.

More recently, during the debate over civil partnerships, the then government accepted a figure of somewhere between 6 and 7 percent.

However it now appears that such figures are hugely inflated. The most recent and comprehensive survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates that in this country we have consistently overestimated the size of the homosexual population.

Continue reading »

Dec 27, 2010
neil

Christianity and media bias

My preferred weekly magazine, in its Christmas special, ran only one article on the Christmas story and they asked an atheist to write it.  It’s called ‘Confession of an atheist: I respect Christianity too much to believe in it.’

Why would the magazine, which is conservative culturally and politically, prefer the view of an atheist for a Christmas comment? Well I guess because it’s a different angle.  And that, my friends, is the problem for Christians when it comes to Christianity and the media.

There exists an inevitable bias against Christianity in the media because the media is always looking for new angles and new opportunities to say new things.

Locked out?

Andrew Marr at a recent internal seminar at the BBC let the cat out of the bag.

The BBC is a publicly funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnicminorities and almost certainly of gay people than the population at large.  It depends on the states approval at least for its funding mechanism and all this creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC and I think if we pretend there isn’t an institutional liberal bias of that kind which is much more clearly expressed as a cultural bias than as a party political bias.

And it has always been so. Marr, in his presentation to the September seminar, actually quoted a  parliamentary committee from 1936 which highlights how the old, old story will always be eclipsed by the new.

‘There’s an inevitable tendency in the general programmes of the Corporation to devote more time to the expression of new ideas and the advocacy of change in social and other spheres than the defence of orthodoxy and stability, since the reiteration of what exists and is familiar is not so interesting as the exposition of what might be.’

As Marr pointed out, ‘Any producer, any reporter worth their salt wants to go for newness, challenge, controversy – and the Continue reading »

Dec 20, 2010
neil

No god? No problem?

The philosopher and atheist AC Grayling is writing a book entitled ‘The Good Book: A Secular History’.  In it he joins Richard Dawkins and Christophet Hitchens, amongst a growing list, who insist that you don’t need to believe in God to be good. Every Christian would want to affirm that fact.  Atheists can and often do choose to be ‘good’, whatever that may mean in an amoral universe of ‘blind pitiless indifference’ to quote Dawkins.

But, heres the rub, the thing they don’t want to tell you is that without a belief in God there is no reason to be bad either. In a quite brilliant article the intellectual dishonesty at work in those who will not admit that their creed allows men to be cruel is exposed by Peter Heck.

Here’s just one extract but it’s well worth reading the whole:

Two years ago, their motto was “Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness’ sake!”  Last year, they were more direct: “No god?  No problem!”  But this year, as they feebly attempt to detract from the celebration of Christ’s incarnation once again, perhaps it’s a fruitful exercise for our civilization to consider their overtures and weigh the merit of their message.

As far as I can tell, the mantra “No god?  No problem!” has but one minor flaw: the entire record of human history.  It is no coincidence that as German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche boasted, “God is dead … we have killed him … must we not ourselves become gods[?]” (which, by the way, is the entire basis of humanism dating back to the Garden of Eden), he Continue reading »

Dec 15, 2010
neil

The Gospel of Thomas

Do you sometimes wonder whether our Bibles tell us the whole story about Jesus? Do you wonder whether other biographies of the life of Jesus have been censured by the church? Why should we trust the four gospels we have and what could we say to those who ask?

Nag Hammadi

In 1945 a man called Mohammed Ali (not to be confused with the Boxer) discovered in the deserts of Egypt a storage jar containing thirteen leather-bound books that date from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The books are written in Coptic (an ancient Egyptian language) and are probably translations of earlier Greek texts.  We know, for example, that one of the books ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ is a translation because archaeologists have discovered earlier Greek fragments  that probably date from between 130-250 AD.  After years of research and translation the Nag Hammadi find was published in 1977

Why is this discovery so important?

The discovery matters, essentially, because they contain early Gospels that we don’t find in our own Bibles. The thirteen books include a total of 52 documents including books called ‘The Gospel of Philip’,‘ The Gospel of Thomas’ and ‘The Apocalypse of Peter’. Continue reading »

Dec 10, 2010
neil

How atheists are made (sometimes)

A couple of days ago we considered the remarkable story of how atheist and arch-enemy of Christianity AN Wilson rediscovered his Christian faith.

In a follow up article in the Daily Mail Wilson set out some of the reasons he had become an atheist along with his route home to faith. I hope by looking at it together it will give us renewed confidence in our faith and a fresh desire to share it with others.

Like having spots

One of Wilson’s key insights looking back on his life is that his atheism rested not on the fact that Christianity is no longer believable but that it has become so deeply unfashionable. Our culture is much more than secular (in which it would simply ignore matters of faith). Our culture is in fact deeply anti-religious. It’s not satisfied to leave Christianity alone it seeks out opportunity to give it a good beating.

Wilson, in his article, examines how the media-pundits and intelligencia in British society systematically attack and ridicule Christianity.

‘Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

The vast majority of media pundits and intelligentsia in Britain are unbelievers, many of them quite fervent in their hatred of religion itself.

The Guardian’s fanatical feminist-in-chief, Polly Toynbee, is one of the most dismissive of religion and Christianity in particular. She is president of the British Humanist Association, an associate of the National Secular Society and openly scornful of the millions of Britons who will quietly proclaim their faith in Church tomorrow.

‘Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?’ she asked in a puerile article decrying the wickedness of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, which have bewitched children for more than 50 years. Or, to take another of her utterances: ‘When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains.’

The sneering Ms Toynbee, like Richard Dawkins, believes in rational explanations for our existence and behaviour. She is deeply committed to the Rationalist Association, but her approach to religion is too fanatical to be described as rational.’ Continue reading »

Dec 8, 2010
neil

Why I believe again

As a young Christian the man we had to contend with was AN Wilson. He just seemed to have it in for us Christians.  He wrote a biography of CS Lewis in which in page after page he worked hard to  erode my confidence in the man, his faith and his reasoned defense of Christianity. But Wilson wasn’t satisfied to rob me of CS Lewis.  He followed it up with a booklet entitled ‘Against Religion: Why we should live without it’ and then he wrote a book on Jesus himself denying his deity and reducing him to the place of a merely misguided end-time ‘prophet’ of liberal Christianity. Perhaps my biggest problem was not Wilson but the media’s delight in him and his books. Time and again his  views were splashed across the papers and Christians were once again in retreat.

Born-again unbeliever

Here is how AN Wilson describes his own conversion to atheism:

I can remember almost yelling that reading C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity made me a non-believer – not just in Lewis’s version of Christianity, but in Christianity itself. On that occasion, I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world. As for Jesus having been the founder of Christianity, this idea seemed perfectly preposterous. In so far as we can discern anything about Jesus from the existing documents, he believed that the world was about to end, as did all the first Christians. So, how could he possibly have intended to start a new religion for Gentiles, let alone established a Church or instituted the Sacraments? It was a nonsense, together with the idea of a personal God, or a loving God in a suffering universe. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

As a hesitant, doubting, religious man I’d never known how they felt. But, as a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what Continue reading »

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