Response to YouTube Atheist

In a recent post, I asked our readers to watch the video of an atheist gentleman who addressed his video to “all Christians.”  In the video, he attempts to convince Christians that they are wrong to believe in the Christian God and Bible.

I wanted to make a few comments about what he said.

First, he badly misunderstands religious truth claims.  In his video he argues that since there are multitudes of religions in the world, that the chance that Christianity is the true religion is extremely small.  The problem with this argument is that it assumes that all ideas have an equal chance of being true.  But that is clearly not so.  The way we determine whether an idea is true is we assess the evidence for it. 

Religions make claims about the world that we can test.  If religion A makes a claim about the world that is false, we can safely say that religion A is not true, or at least that part of it isn’t.  For example, some religions make historical claims that are seriously lacking any evidence and, in fact, contradict known historical facts.  Those religions should be judged false.

Besides, his argument boomerangs back on him, because atheism is only one of multitudes of options, so his chance of being right is just as small as the Christian, by his own flawed logic.

He next compares God to unicorns.  He claims that there is no evidence for God or unicorns, and therefore he doesn’t need any faith to not believe in God or unicorns.  A couple things could be said. 

First, nobody argues that unicorns are real, except for a few kooks, whereas north of 95% of all the people that have ever lived believed in a god or gods.  Surely the atheist has to explain why that is.

Second, there are numerous evidences for the existence of God captured in books that fill up libraries.  Anybody heard of C. S. Lewis?  He may not be convinced of these evidences, but to say that there are none offered is false.  I am not aware of huge libraries filled with books offering evidence for unicorns.

Third, if it is so obvious that there is no evidence for God, then why do so many people not see it?  And really smart people?  I have an electrical engineering degree from GA Tech, and I think there is a difference between unicorns and God.  Unicorns are just concepts that do not exist in reality, but God exists in reality.  Why?  What is wrong with me?  How did YouTube guy figure it out?  He needs to consider these questions.

But perhaps the saddest thing about this video is that he doesn’t understand Christianity.  In a period of a few minutes, he mangles the gospel, he misunderstands the use of metaphor in the Bible, and he misinterprets the doctrine of hell (the Bible never teaches that God literally burns people alive for eternity; it is a figure of speech). 

Based on these gross errors, I draw the conclusion that he really hasn’t studied Christianity, as he says at the beginning of the video.

Dinesh D’Souza coined a term for people who believe in a childish form of Christianity.  He calls them crayon Christians.  These are people who never grow in their understanding of the faith, and are stuck in a childish belief system.  That describes our YouTube atheist.  His Christian beliefs never advanced beyond the crayon stage.

I pray that some day he puts the crayons aside.

Is the Trinity Biblical?

Many non-Christian groups who accept some form of the New Testament – Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses – claim that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is false.  One of the arguments often used is that the concept of the Trinity cannot be found in Scripture, so the doctrine cannot be true.

This argument, however, will not fly.  The argument for the tri-unity of God is straightforward and well grounded in the biblical text.

The first premise of the argument is that God is one.  We know this from verses like Deut. 6:4 and 1 Cor. 8:4.

The second premise is that three persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are all called God.

Concerning the Father, we read verses such as John 6:27 and Rom. 1:7.

Concerning the Son, we read a verse such as John 8:58, where Jesus uses an Old Testament name of God, “I am,” to refer to Himself.  We also read of instances where Jesus does things that only God would do, such as forgiving someone’s sins in Mark 2:5-7.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, we read a verse like Acts 5:3-4, where the Holy Spirit is called God.

Therefore, if the Bible teaches that God is one (and it does) and the Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God (and it does), then the doctrine of the Trinity is established.  There are three persons in one God.  This is what Christians affirm and non-Christians deny.

Now I have to quickly state that there are far more verses than the ones I mentioned above that establish the doctrine of the Trinity.  I am only providing a tiny sampling in order to refute the claim that the Trinity is not based on the Bible.  It is biblical, but please don’t think that my evidence above is exhaustive.  If you want to dig deeper, then this study of the Trinity should more than satisfy you.

Poll Says American Christians Don't Believe Jesus is the Only Way

My response to this article might surprise some of you.

The article discusses a recent report which indicates that 37% of evangelicals rejected the claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  52% of American Christians agreed that religions other than Christianity can lead to eternal life.  But what does this data mean?  Should we moan and groan that Christians don’t understand the teachings of their own faith?  Maybe, but I think there’s another side to the story.

There is no doubt, from the Bible, that absolutely nobody gets to heaven without Christ’s death and resurrection, both of which were necessary to reconcile man with God.  The tougher question is this:  how is Christ’s sacrifice applied to people who never hear the gospel?

I, for one, do not like this line of questioning in a survey or poll because it puts the Christian in an awkward position.  The requirement that every person, whether they’ve heard the gospel or not, put their faith in Christ is a nuanced issue that requires some explanation and does not lend itself to multiple choice answers.  It’s like being asked to describe God in five words or less.  It can’t be done!

The truth is that we aren’t given specific knowledge of which other individuals are going to heaven and which aren’t because we don’t know other people’s hearts and minds.  God doesn’t tell us.  Many Christians act as if we do know, but we just don’t.

The New Testament teaches us that we should believe in Jesus for eternal life, and it says this over and over and over again (read the book of John if you don’t believe me).  So we have this positive command, to believe in Jesus, and it is a clear and plain teaching that the biblical authors wanted to make sure we understood.  Another clear teaching is that those who have heard of Christ and rejected Him are in eternal jeopardy.  We can be sure of these truths.

The New Testament, on the other hand, does not spend a lot of time talking about followers of other world religions who have never heard  of the authentic biblical Jesus.   Theologians have tried to explain what happens to those who never hear, but none of these proposals warrant dogmatism because of the scant biblical evidence.

I know that God wants people to believe in Christ.  I know that those who reject Christ will be separated from God.  The Bible teaches those things clearly, but I don’t know, for sure, what happens when a person is unable to hear or respond to the gospel of Christ.

I believe that many Christians know John 14:6 and they know Romans 10:9, but some pollster calls them and puts them on the spot: “Is Jesus the only way to heaven?”  Polls don’t allow for nuanced answers.  They demand black and white answers, and frankly, I can sympathize with those being asked this difficult question, most of whom are not theologians who study this issue every day.

A much better question to put to Christians would be: “Does the Bible teach that believing in Jesus leads to eternal life?”  I think the vast majority of Christians would answer “yes.”

A follow-up question could be: “Should Christians tell others about Jesus so that they, too, can have eternal life?”  Again, I think a great percentage would say “yes.”

Let’s focus on what we know.

What Would You Say to Him?

YouTube has an enormous number of videos dedicated to Christianity, atheism, and every other kind of worldview.  I want to post some of these videos from time to time and ask you for your response to these videos.

The first of these, found below, is from an atheist who raises a handful of issues that he thinks should render belief in the Christian God as nonsensical.  Watch the video and comment in this blog post on any issues he raised that interested you. 

As you’re watching, ask yourself some questions.  What are his arguments?  Does he provide good reasons for his positions?  Does he really understand Christianity?  If you are a Christian, is there anything he said that reflects one of your doubts?  What would you say to him if you met him for a cup of coffee?

I look forward to your responses and will plan on making a few comments myself later on.

Strongly Religious Folks Have More Self-Control

This according to research published by Michael McCullough and Brian Willoughby.  Thanks to Wes Milam for bringing this article to my attention in the NY Times.

The researchers found that those who are intrinsically and strongly religious just have more self-control than those who don’t.  They are better able to withstand temptation and are less impulsive.  The non-religious, including extrinsic believers (those just going through the motions of religion) and outright non-believers, are, by comparison, more impulsive and exhibit less self-control.

There is also bad news for those devotees of a vague New Age concept of God as a spiritual force, much like the concept of God that Oprah Winfrey consistently promotes.  Their self-control was also worse than the strongly religious.   

Another interesting sidebar in the article is worth mentioning:

Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.

Even though researchers have repeatedly found these things to be true, the media rarely report on such research, and so most of us aren’t aware of these findings, but thanks to the NY Times, now we are!

So religious people do better in school, live longer, have better marriages, are happier, are better able to withstand temptation, are less impulsive, and exhibit better self-control.  So what?  Does this prove any religion true?

Of course not, but it does show one important thing.  Any worldview worth following should work for its adherents.  It should genuinely improve their lives because they are believing in something that more closely conforms to reality. 

Over the long run, a worldview that sees reality more accurately is going to benefit its followers more than one that gets reality wrong.  This study shows that strongly religious worldviews really work for the adherent.  Believing in God, and taking that belief seriously, is a worldview that is good for people in their everyday lives. 

Some critics might claim that the religious are just self-deluded, but they have to explain why this self-delusion persists across all places, times, and peoples.  We find religion in the most primitive to the most advanced societies on earth, all over the earth, and all throughout history.  Where did this powerful delusion originate and why does it persist?  I’ve heard the evolutionary accounts of religious belief, but they are nothing more than bedtime stories without any shred of empirical evidence.  Scientific accounts without any evidence are not persuasive, but this doesn’t stop some scientists from telling these stories anyway.

Those of us who believe in God notice that it seems to be built into us, as if  God Himself placed it there.  When we believe, we are responding to a natural desire to know God that seems to be present in all mankind.  Some of us respond positively to this desire, and some of us negatively.  The research seems to show that those of us who respond positively are better at living life.

Business Book Authors Should Avoid Writing About Evolution

Last time I checked, scientists thought the earth was about 4.5 billion years old.  When I read the following paragraph from a prominent business author, I had trouble with his evolutionary math.  Maybe it’s just me, but you see if you can fit 4.5 billion years into his account of evolution.

It took several billion years on Earth for unicellular life to evolve. And it took another billion years or so for that single-celled life to evolve multi-cellular arrangements–each cell touching a few cells near it to make a living spherical organism. At first, the sphere was the only form multicellular life could take because its cells had to be near one another to coordinate their functions. After another billion years, life eventually evolved the first cellular neuron–a thin strand of tissue–which enabled two cells to communicate over a distance. With that single enabling innovation, the variety of life boomed.

I’m also fairly confident that we’ve discovered life that existed 3.5 billion years ago, so again, I’m struggling…  Does anyone want to defend our heroic champion of evolution?

How Are Human Beings Different From Other Animals?

I can remember having this debate with my friend, Mike, when I was in college.  He argued that humans are no different from other animals except for our larger brains.  There is nothing we can do that animals can’t do.  Animals just do things in a more primitive and basic fashion.

This always struck me as ridiculous, and I just ran across a quote from Professor Bruce Thornton at Fresno State University which explains the difference well:

 What makes us recognizably human, then, is not what is natural about us but what is unnatural: reason and its projections in language, culture, ritual, and technology, self-awareness, conscious memory, imagination, and the higher emotions; and, most important, values, ethics, morals, and the freedom from nature’s determinism that allows us to choose, whether for good or ill.  Nothing else in nature possesses any of these attributes, despite the wishful thinking of those who believe they are teaching chimps to “talk,” or who consider a monkey digging up termites with a stick to be “using tools,” or who label baboon rump-submission a “social practice,” or who subjectively interpret the behavior of animals to indicate the presence of “self-awareness” ore higher human emotions such as love, grief, regret, guilt, shame, or loyalty.  For every dog that howls over the body of its dead master there is another that, if necessary, will happily eat his corpse.

Well said, professor.

Are We All Children Of God?

One of the central doctrines of Mormonism is that every human being is a spirit child of God.   They teach that we were each born as a spirit child of Heavenly Father and one of His wives.  This teaching is central to the faith as it lays the ground work for further doctrines such as eternal families and eternal progression onto Godhood.  However, does the Bible teach that we are ALL children of God?  I would have to say no. 

 The Bible teaches that when we accept Christ we are adopted in as a child of God.  Being called a child of God is a gift to believers given as a result of what Christ did for us.

John 1:12 says “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Emphasis mine)

This verse makes it very clear that it is only those who believe in Christ who are children of God.   Another key verse…

Romans 8:14 “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”

It is only those who are led by God that can be called children of God.  You might say, “So what!  This is just a minor difference in doctrine and does not really matter.”  I disagree.  The Bible makes it very clear that to be called a child of God is a GIFT that has been given to us by Christ and that it is only through accepting Him that we can profess to be God’s children.  To say that someone who refuses to follow Jesus Christ is a child of God is a slap in the face to Christ.  It is minimizing Christ’s sacrifice for us.


Is the Doctrine of Inerrancy an Essential Doctrine of Christianity?

I recently posted on the essential doctrines of Christianity, and I left out a doctrine that probably surprised many traditional Christians: inerrancy

The reason I left this doctrine out is because I was defining an essential doctrine as one that must be true for salvation.  A person does not have to believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and therefore inerrant, in order to be saved.  Many people have been saved in the history of the world without ever reading a Bible and even knowing what the word inerrant means.

However, the doctrine of inerrancy is an essential doctrine in another way.  If the Bible is not inerrant, then we lose our confidence in the doctrines that must be true for our salvation.  The Bible teaches that Christ is God, that He died on a cross for our sins, and that He was resurrected.  If the Bible has errors in it, then how can we know that these things are true?

Whenever I meet people who deny inerrancy, but they firmly believe Christ died for their sins, I ask them how they know that those verses in the Bible talking about Christ dying for their sins are true.  Maybe those are the very verses that are in error!  I have never heard a reasonable answer to this question.

Inerrancy provides the foundation for our knowing the revelation of God.  If you don’t affirm inerrancy, you can’t be sure of  the very gospel you claim to believe.  Inerrancy is the firm ground we stand on to affirm everything we believe about God.  Take it away, and you have two feet planted firmly in thin air.

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