Apologetics from Tiananmen Square

This is the week that, 20 years ago, Chinese military opened fire in what has come to be called the Tiananmen Square massacre. There's a marvelous piece here, by the NYT's Nicolas Kristof. In addition, I have a personal story to tell...

It's December 23rd, 1993. I'm speaking to a gathered group of international students at a ski retreat, and one of the breakout sessions I've been assigned is titled, "Science and the Bible". I come prepared to talk about geological discoveries that reinforce my belief that the Bible is largely history. You know the stuff - stories about Jericho's walls falling down, Noah's ark being found, and an explanation for what the Bible meant when it says that the sun stood still. I, the guy who's last science class was basic physics during my first year of college thirteen years earlier, was to explain to these PHD candidates in Biology, Nuclear Physics, Astronomy, and numerous other disciplines, why the evidence is overwhelming that they should believe the Bible based on these scientific discoveries.
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Does the Theist or Atheist Have the Burden of Proof?

No doubt you are already familiar with the concept of the "burden of proof."  (Unless you have already had some unfortunate personal experience with the criminal justice system, just think about the O.J. Simpson trial or any television drama involving the criminal courts.)  The "burden of proof" is on the prosecutor (the D.A.) to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty.  If the prosecutor doesn't present enough convincing evidence, then the defendant is declared "not guilty."

It is the declared intention of atheists to put the burden of proof for the existence of God on the theists.  They don't want to be put in the position of having to prove the non-existence of God.  They know it can't be done.  As was stated in Positive Atheism magazine:  "one cannot prove a negative existential claim (that is, a claim that a thing does not exist)."  For this reason, the distinction between the weak position and the strong position of atheism becomes very important.  With weak-position atheism, the burden of proof falls on the theist.  With strong-position atheism, however, it is the atheist that carries the burden of proof.  Here is how it breaks down:

  • The weak-position atheist says:  "I don't believe in God because no one has provided me with any credible evidence that God exists."  This position puts the theist on the defensive.  The theist must present evidence to persuade the weak-position atheist.  
  • The strong-position atheist says:  "Absolutely, positively, there is no god."  In response to this dogmatic position, the theistic can say:  "So prove it."  This means that the strong-position atheist must go on the defensive.
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I am an Aatheist

The following Associate Press article appeared in my hometown newspaper, The Staten Island Advance, on Sunday, May 24, 2009. I thought it was great and expressed my impressions every time I hear folks like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, et al interviewed or read from their respective books.

For the record, I don't believe in atheists. I don't believe they actually exist. To be so angry at something requires that one believes it exists. Atheists are too angry at God to actually believe He doesn't exist. 

I think that makes me an Aatheist. 

- Christy 

Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining

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An Atheism Primer

A recent op-ed piece by Charlotte Allen in the Los Angeles Times, "Atheists: No God, No Reason, Just Whining," prompted a flurry of reactions from the atheist community.  The most clever response came from Hermant Mehta, who basically said that atheists should be protected from outrageous claims such as those made by Allen (that atheists are basically boring).  Mehta even compared atheists to Jews, perhaps implying that such claims are tantamount to hate speech.

Exhanges like these, especially in the blogosphere, don't really serve much of a purpose, except to reinforce pre-existing stereotypes.  We need more productive conversations, such as the debate that occurred between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens on the campus of Biola University.

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Christians Behaving Badly...

It's all over the news these days. Google "Catholic" and "abuse" and you'll find more than enough reading material to sadden, anger, and sicken you for days. What you won't find is much of an analysis regarding the why of this tragedy. Protestants will glibly declare that the problem is the doctrine of celibacy, conveniently turning a blind eye towards the grave failures in our own camp.

Let's forget about celibacy for a minute and look at this through a different lens. At the risk of oversimplifying things, and realizing that there are complexities in each human heart and situation, I suggest that there's are several deep truths we must consider:

1. form without power is worse than nothing at all. Paul addresses the church in Corinth, warning them that they're headed down a path that will eventually be very ugly if not checked. His warning in I Corinthians 4 is that "God words" are deeply destructive when they're not coupled with God's genuine power of transformation. This is because, as history shows us, the forms of the faith can be perpetuated long after God has left the building (see Ez 10:18). When this happens, you'll have institutional structures used to feed the only appetite left in some individuals, namely our flesh.
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A Good, Bad and Ugly God

A God in control is comforting, but inauthentic. We are happy with this God until “you know what” hits the fan and our world falls like the Tower of Babel. A God in control would have to guide everything—the good, the bad and the ugly. But a God who created a good human race that went bad and ugly is a completely different story. This God isn’t responsible for our mistakes, our suffering or our pain.

Theological Control—Nice, but Absurd

I define theological control as God predetermining the path of the world. This God acts from a distance, deciding the fate of each person and consequently the fate of the world. I oppose this view of God and propose another.

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Jesus Uncensored

Was Jesus a white, Dutch pacifist with blond, curly hair and a flowing robe, like he is portrayed in many movies? Or was he a bearded, Middle-Eastern rabbi who made nearly every religious and political figure of his day infuriated? Why did Jesus die? Could it be that he was perceived as a zealous, sacrilegious leader of a revolt? Who is the uncensored Jesus?


This is a message that I delivered at a mission in my hometown. There is a lot of coughing during the audio since most of the audience is ill from spending most of their time in the cold on the street. Jesus came to these people -- that is the topic of the message. Please pray for my friends without a home. And enjoy the message!


I Have a Problem with God

I am troubled because I feel blessed and cursed, simultaneously. Does God bring the good and the bad? If he does, I have a problem with God.

I hear at church, “God is in control. Do not fear.” Really, is he in control? Because what I see is a world out of control. John Calvin is going to roll over in his grave when I say this, but God is not in control. Because that God would have to be fine with evil to be in control of this mess.

Paul says that the creation and our very selves are subject to the corrupt world:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18–25 ESV)
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The Problem of Evil Solved: Thank You Alvin Plantinga

As I mentioned before, the logical or deductive form of the argument from evil attempts to demonstrate a contradiction in the theist's beliefs that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God and evil exist at the same time.  The logical challenge can and has been answered decisively, starting with Alvin Plantinga in his famous book, God, Freedom, and Evil

Keep in mind atheist J.L. Mackie's argument from my earlier post, which can be outlined this way: 

  1. God exists and is omnipotent and perfectly good.
  2. A perfectly good being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
  3. There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.
  4. Evil exists.
  5. Therefore, God does not exist. 
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The Problem of Evil: Presupposing Good?

In an earlier post, I mentioned the importance of making distinctions when approaching the problem of evil, one being the distinction between the logical problem and the evidential problem.  This distinction informs our response to each, helping us to see what's "in play" and what's not.  And when it comes to the logical argument we discover that the theist cannot respond by accusing the atheist of presupposing some objective standard of goodness by which to measure evil

Let me explain.

When making the logical argument the atheist is trying to point out a logical contradiction within the theist's worldview.  If he succeeds in demonstrating the contradiction then one or more or the propositions in question, again within the theist's worldview, is false.  But notice, this does not commit the atheist to the actual existence of the things in question (e.g. evil, an omnibenevolent God).  The atheist is standing outside of our worldview so to speak, looking in on it, and examining it.  He sees two or more contradictory propositions and so he points them out:  "Hey, you theists believe an all-good, all-powerful God exists but you also believe that evil exists--that's a contradiction.  It's like saying 2 + 2 = 4 and 2 + 2 = 5 at the same time."

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