I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Friday, February 26, 2010

Presuppositionalism Applied II

McLoughlin's madness seems to have no stops. After six or so months of silence without McLoughlin attacking the Faith in the Bedford Bulletin, he struck again this week with the following letter to the Editor. My response follows.

No belief in a god

Mark Twain said “faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Maybe that’s why at least one billion people have no belief in a god. These non-believers come from the safest, healthiest, most educated, most charitable, most technologically advanced and most crime-free nations on earth, according to the research of Zuckerman. Countries with high percentages of unbelievers include global bright spots like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Canada and France. These people are not the world’s idiots.

Also, scientists as a group fail to see these “obvious” gods whom believers keep talking about. Despite the fact that the U. S. is a highly religious society, almost all elite American scientists are non-believers. Researchers Larson and Witham found that only 1 percentof the National Academy of Sciences members were believers. To many of them, reliance on faith is a complete surrender of the mind or at least a stubborn reluctance to think. Why, for example, shouldn’t a person who defends her god on faith, not defend the existence of the thousands of other gods? Maybe, as Dawkins says, everyone is an atheist except for their god. If a Christian were born in Iraq rather than the US, he/she would surely have been a Muslim. What does this say about the uniqueness of the Christian God?

It’s clear that arguments based on reason and reality are not likely to have much of an impact on a concept that has nothing to do with either. Further, faith doesn’t lose debates because it doesn’t play by the rules. Dawkins says, “Faith is evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument.”

Many thousands of excavations have been conducted all over the world and not one artifact has been found that provides direct evidence of even one god, one miracle, one angel, one genie, or one demon. The shroud of Turin is but one example of the many frauds that have been perpetrated. So where is the scientific evidence for a god? Charles Darwin said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. It is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” Maybe Lucretius was right, “Fear was the first thing on earth to make gods.” Or maybe Mark Twain was right, “it ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bothers me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Or maybe Aristotle was right, “Prayers and sacrifices are of no avail” and “men created gods after their own image.” Xenophanes speculated that "if horses had gods, those gods would be horses.”

Many will use Hitler as an example of the horrors of unbelief, but he is the wrong choice for atheism’s poster boy. Hitler was not an atheist, at least not according to his own written and spoken words. He was raised a Christian and as an adult quoted the Bible and drew upon religion for inspiration. From Mein Kampf: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Even more significant, virtually all of his enthusiastic supporters were believers too, from his generals right down to the Third Reich’s privates. It wasn’t atheists delivering Jews to death camps. It was believers. Without a doubt, future generations will shake their heads and wonder how this could have happened. They do today.

David McLoughlin, Feb. 24, 2010

The Faith of Unbelief

As Christian philosopher C. S. Lewis said, “Good philosophy exists if for no other reason than to answer bad philosophy.” Few examples better typify the latter like David McLoughlin’s last letter, “No belief in a god” (02/24). It teemed with sophomoric desperation and demonstrated that McLoughlin can plainly understand the nature of neither faith nor the debate.

McLoughlin owned Richard Dawkin’s comment, “Faith is evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument.” This invokes three concepts: Faith, morality and rationality. These are interrelated.

First, Christians happily confess that faith in the absolute-personal God of the Bible provides the necessary grounding for our experience and interpretation of morality and rationality. McLoughlin must also answer the grounding question from his atheistic perspective.

McLoughlin’s quote speaks of “evil.” Within an atheistic worldview, what in the world is evil? Apart from the Christian God, what ultimate reference point is there that can serve as a universal, absolute standard for making judgments about human behavior? All atheistic answers to this question are reducible to crass relativism. Relativism says that “morals” are the emotive responses of mere personal tastes. Accordingly, McLoughlin—in logical keeping with his atheism—is only imposing his personal tastes on everyone else, when he says that your and my commitment to Christ is “evil.” Driven to consistency, there isn’t a principled difference between what McLoughlin has attempted with this remark and saying that the group of people who favor chocolate over vanilla ice-cream are committing “evil” in their commitment. In short, what philosophical right does any atheist have to call anything objectively “evil”? We’ve yet to hear a reasonable answer to this question.

Closely related is the “is-to-ought” problem that atheists must face. Unmistakably, McLoughlin contrasts us “common people who gladly hear Jesus” (Mark 12:37) with the “most educated,” “elite” atheistic scientists. Scientists, however, are restricted to empirical or physical observations for their conclusions. Therefore, as David Hume concluded, there is no rational justification, per atheistic science, for moving from the observable “what is the case,” describing human behavior, to “what ought to be the case,” prescribing human behavior and conduct. Granting McLoughlin’s outlook, then, we’re left with the atheists’ strong-armed “Might makes right” brand of ethics—what’s commonly called tyranny.

Secondly, regarding rationality. From the foregoing, it’s obvious that McLouglin has no standard, as do Christians, which could morally obligate all people everywhere to regiment their thinking in a rational and coherent manner. Additionally, his atheism “brooks no argument” for the why and the how of human reasoning, as many of my past letters have demonstrated. However, the problems don’t stop here. McLoughlin is far from faith-neutral; he has his faith commitments as well, despite how much he deplores the fact. His outlook additionally suffers from what’s called the problem of criterion.

McLoughlin speaks authoritatively about “reality,” presuming to pronounce what is and isn’t possible. How, though, does he know that God is not a reality? Because, “scientists fail to see” God. That notwithstanding, what criterion of rationality have these scientists adopted for their investigation of reality but purely empirical methods. We may now ask, How do they know that an empirical-only method is the proper criterion for evaluating and investigating reality? There is only one answer to this question in terms of McLoughlin’s position.

An empirical-only criterion would be rational if, and only if, atheistic scientists begin with the presupposition that reality is material-only. That is, McLoughlin and his gods (i.e., ultimate authorities) begin with the deep faith commitment that reality is such that nothing immaterial can exist, and that well before they select their method or criterion for exploring reality. They begin with faith, plain and simple, that reality is Godless, and upon that faith they adopt a criterion that would preclude any detection of such a Being (since “God is spirit,” John 4:24). Then, in perfect accord with their controlling faith commitment to the non-existence of God, they interpret, or rather sift, the evidence round about them in perfect harmony with their controlling presupposition of a Godless reality.

Of course, McLoughlin and his sort find the idea of faith repugnant. But there’s no way around it. We all must begin somewhere and with some final authority, which has Crown-rights over all our thinking—that is faith. For Christians, this trust is placed in the Self-attesting, Creator-Redeemer Christ speaking in the Scriptures; for atheists, like McLoughlin, it’s something in creation (Romans 1:18—32). And this is the good news, that Jesus Christ died in such a way that the ungodly like you, me, and McLoughlin could be redeemed from our cosmic treason and rebellion; our de-Godding of God; or, our “bad philosophy,” as C. S. Lewis put it.

Kevin Stevenson, Year of our Lord, Feb. 25, 2010

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