I love a good reasonable conversation. I enjoy reading about reason and listening to reasonable speakers. I am currently writing several books (one at a time of course . . . I just have several ideas already planned) and they are as well reasoned and thought out as I can muster. Yet as I examine the world around me it appears that reason is an endangered and rare art that is increasingly becoming irrelevant. For all the big words that are thrown around in the public arena, it is obvious they are used for psychological response in emotions only. Easily steered public opinion!
I recently entered into a discussion after making the following post on FaceBook:
A point of interest to me is the contradiction within most atheists and even agnostics. They directly and/or indirectly claim to have a corner on reason, yet seem to be irrational and highly emotional when confronted with reason contrary to their supposed conclusions. Then, in turn, they are unwilling to consider and forcefully ignore the point.
Man cannot survive as man without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls “reason.” Dismissal of dialog does not justify any position of this great a significance, and when eternal gain or loss is the proposed outcome of reaching or not reaching a reasonable conclusion, refusal to consider the possibility of a loving God in Christ Jesus based on emotional disappointments is not only intellectual suicide, its just plain dishonest.
I was answered by someone I have known for quite a few years and have respect for. Amy is an atheist. I feel compelled to record this conversation here. Her response is as follows:
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon. According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you? I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way – I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?” Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.
What follows from here is my answer thus far. I divided Amy’s response into sections to answer one at a time.
Amy Lang North
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon.
**No doubt. Willful ignorance abounds in every corner! That is another subject I have taken aim at and am happy to address. Christian apologetics has been around for a very long time but it seems to me that the “rank and file” Christianity of today is largely shallow and unstudied. However, this willful ignorance is not confined to Christians. But for now, here we are . . . and I am glad you have taken interest in making some very thoughtful points.
According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you?
**Well put and a good question.
Actually no . . . this is not simply only according to me. But please allow me first to clarify and complete what was said. “Man cannot survive without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls ‘reason.’” This is not just an isolated view from little old me. This is a philosophical argument that has been around for a very long time. And it is playing out in the world around us in an undeniable fashion.
All reasoning is based upon underlying presuppositions. Have you ever listened to two contrary positions debated? Both individuals believe, within their reasoning, that what they believe is right and rationally sound. Both individuals had a starting point from which their reasoning process began. Yet because these presuppositions were different they came to contrary positions. For most, it is not because their process of reasoning was right or wrong but because their presupposition was right or wrong. Certainly, some have defective reasoning, but that is a different story from what I am addressing here. Starting from an absolute brings unity, meaning and purpose even in diversity. It gives man a “rallying point” if you will. How we arrive at an absolute I will discuss latter on.
In the world around us we have seen the process of the dismissal of the moral absolutes (which is a very broad statement, I know, but I will define later as well) of God as the presupposition in reason. As this has happened we have seen before our eyes the destruction of the United States and chaos in the world . . . . which is escalating at break-neck speed. Confining my focus on America, the divisions are multiplying and have become diametrically opposed and irreconcilable and increasingly hostile one to another. Each position, such as pro-life/prochoice; liberal/conservative; Democrat/Republican; Sodomite/Straight; etc. etc. etc… has a line of reasoning which each one separately regards as completely sound, yet the conclusions are totally opposed. I’m not here to argue for or against any of these positions right now (though I certainly have my positions firmly ensconced). My objective here is to point out that the presuppositions in each line of reasoning determines the conclusions.
So, in answer to your first objection I state once again: Man cannot survive without an ultimate reference point and anchor for the process of reason. He will, ultimately, destroy himself. And I am not an isolated voice!
I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way
***Being the Pastor of one of those churches you attended for a short time I am deeply ashamed of myself as a Pastor and teacher and sorry that we left you in such a questioning position and added to your lack of satisfactory answers. I must take responsibility for missing the mark in ministering to your intellectual needs. This is not an excuse, but it is a very difficult task to find a balance in reaching those who are simple and would neither be interested nor able to follow what I am talking about right now, and those who have the need to be satisfied with further depth. I don’t want to sound insulting or discourteous to anyone, though at times I am taken this way, but some people enjoy swimming deeper than others. The beauty of the Gospel is that it can and does satisfy the simplest mind of a child and meet the intellectual needs of the philosophical giant.
It appears from what you have said here that one of your presuppositions are becoming apparent. The phrases, “Religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons” seems to be coming from an underlying position that man in some way discovered or invented God and/or that Christianity is just another man made mythology. I certainly understand the thought, because I also took that position at one time. I am wondering if you are more of an agnostic than an atheist. Are you saying that God does not exist? or that God is not knowable?
If you are saying He does not exist, the same burden of proof rests on you that you would ask of the theist. If you are saying that he is not knowable, I believe you are correct from our present human perspective. Unless God reveals Himself and His will we are left with a God Who is unreachable and unknowable. From my perspective, knowing that there IS a God is a logical conclusion based on the evidence of existence itself. Knowing Who He is and what His mind is, however, is another matter altogether.
As I said . . . unless He reveals Himself and His mind! This is something else that needs to be addressed here . . . and I plan on it.
– I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?”
A very intelligent agnostic (I think he would categorize himself agnostic at any rate) person very close to me once said that he believed it was arrogant to think that we have figured out God and what He wants. It appears that you are coming from the same direction. If his statement were true concerning the basis of Christianity I would whole heartedly agree. But the reasoning is based on an erroneous premise. Here is where I want to pull together the thoughts I have proposed. I hope you don’t mind the length of what I am going to attempt to discuss.
First, simply stated, Christianity is not man reaching to God to discover Him or figure Him out. It is a revelation of God TO man! It is not man in his pride and strength dissecting God and testing Him in a tube on his philosophical bench. Man CANNOT know God unless God reveals Himself to man. It is God condescending to man to seek and to save that which was lost, revealing Himself incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ . . . Crucified and risen from the dead. I intend on expanding this thought but wanted to state it here for the sake of keeping the direction of the given knowledge of God in focus. The direction of the knowledge is from Him to us, not from us to Him.
As for there only being one way…..
The teaching of exclusivity is not confined to Christianity. Without going into long drawn out details, even the atheist claims exclusivity. So I suppose the same question could be leveled in your direction . . respectfully. Even those who claim there are no absolutes make a self-defeating statement in their claim. In reality, every line of reasoning is making the claim of an absolute whether they like it or not.
First let me deal as briefly as I can with the claims of Christianity and why, outside of the proposed authority of the Bible (which I also shall discuss), they are intellectually sound and exclusive of all other positions.
There are 4 questions that need to be dealt with in the minds of every human being.
1. Origin (where do I come from? . . and everything else for that matter!)
2. Meaning (Why am I here?)
3. Morality (How am I supposed to live?)
4. Destiny (Where do I go,, if anywhere, from here?)
These are questions every human being who has ever lived and thought has had to cope with.
These four questions need to be answered in two ways in order to meet universally satisfactory standards:
1. Every question must correspond according to truth; either by empirical form of measurement and/or the logical reasoning process. (It must make sense)
2. When these four questions are answered, the answers must cohere and not be incoherent. (They must work together and not be contradictory)
Correspondence and Coherence
I guarantee you that ONLY in the Judeo/Christian world view will you find these four questions answered with corresponding truthfulness and with the coherence of a world view. And these answers have stood the test of time an adversity being as relevant to man today as they were thousands of years ago.
All of the world views in existence can very basically be grouped into three categories: (All positions can be categorized under one of these headings)
1. Only the universe exists (Naturalism and Atheism)
2. Only God exists (Eastern religions and spiritualism-many forms but they all boil down to this)
3. Both God and the Universe exists (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
It is relatively easy to subject each of these categories to the above tests. Number three is the only position which passes these tests. Then we examine the three positions contained within the third category with the same criteria and discover that Christianity is a continuation and fulfilment of Judaism, and the third, Islam, destroys itself in its own contradictory nature of the god it proclaims and the self-evident nature of the intrinsic value of human life.
I realize there is much that can be detailed by way of shared questions and dialog here, but basically stated in examination of one’s presuppositional standards this is how one comes to a factual position to start with.
What is happening in the system we are now seeing overtake and destroy what we have come to know and enjoy in life is the replacement of rationally sound suppositions with emotionally based motivations. Facts are no longer considered . . . just how one feels about it. Truth is no longer a matter of thesis/antithesis (if one is true the opposite is false), but a supposed matter of synthesis. But even the proposition of “synthesis” is disintegrating into this post modernistic cesspool. Truth has become a matter of opinion and force. Life has no intrinsic value because the only thing that sets human life apart from insect life is the posit of man being created in the image and likeness of God. The emotions we have as human beings are reduced to meaningless electro-chemical functions accidentally falling into place in a mad dance of atoms. To say to your wife or child “I love you” has no more value than saying “my back itches” or “I have a headache.” Both are nothing more than hormonal secretions and the functions of a machine. Man cannot and does not live this way. He assumes that love, ethics and some form of morality have value but without something to GIVE it value it is an empty romanticism with nothing to refer to for a coherent reason.
I love my children and grandchildren and I know you love your children. Do you not understand that it means nothing if there is no God? I know why I love them and I know what its value is. Do you?
On to the nature of revealed truth from God.
First the nature of revelation is not just propositional, it is embodied . . . it is incarnated. But I would like to deal with the propositional side because that is really the point at hand. It is a very important issue because on this hangs just about everything the Christian believes, and it is shameful to know that so many Christians don’t possess the understanding to articulate it.
There is something about the enscripturation process that is very important. Because truth is primarily a property of propositions. When you look at the Bible, it is a very distinctive book. Unlike Buddha’s teachings, which are little sermons of Buddha. Or the Koran, which is the utterance of one man and the compilation of it posthumously. This takes 66 books from about the mid 1400’s BC all the way to the first century; 29 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and there is a single thread going through all of it. The collusion factor would have been impossibly incredible to bring this about. For example, going back to the prophecy of Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ, to talk about the virgin birth, Micah speaking of the city where He would be born, Zechariah talking about the way the Messiah would ultimately be crucified, take these writers most of whom were not contemporaries, talking all of the converging lines of evidence, the hundreds of prophecies, and bring them into the Person of Jesus Christ . . . it would have taken an extraordinary stroke of genius to retroactively bring all of that to the convergence of one single Person! If falsification were possible you would be able to do so rather quickly. That has been attempted by many over millennia but to no avail. Even the supposed “new” documentaries and arguments in the latest books are nothing more than old rehashes of debunked attempts from the past.
(Just a quick side note: it is very interesting to note that so many who have set out in an attempt to disprove Scripture have actually become believers, and there have never been any death threats to those who seek to malign the Bible. Yet the thrashing of the Koran by authors like Salman Rushdie, which rather conclusively discredit Islam and its not-so-holy book, end with proclamations of vicious death to both him and his family. Can you imagine if a trash book and movie like “The Da Vinci Code” come out concerning Islam? The Islamic zombies would go into meltdown mode faster than they are now.)
After 2000 years of Christ’s incarnation, and 3500 years since the enscripturation process began, no book has been more studied, no book has been more scrutinized. No book has changed the lives of countless millions. No writing of any atheist has changed a drunkard into a saint. No book written promoting atheism has lifted a broken man from the gutter and set his feet on solid ground. NO atheism has given hope to the hopeless or purpose to the destitute.
I will bring you 1000 men changed and made right by the Christ of the Bible if you can bring me 1 saved from a life of broken sin by atheism.
Yes . . . I am deeply sorry that these truths were not presented clearly or to your satisfaction in any of the churches you attended . . . including my own. I take that seriously to heart. But rejecting God, specifically Jesus Christ, because of these lacks of answers really didn’t change anything in your life. Pains were still there . . . life was still happy one minute sad the next . . . answers were still absent . . . purpose was still transient . . . death is still imminent . . . and ultimately all that you hold dear has no intrinsic value or meaning.
I know that there are many more question that cannot be answered in one discussion, and it is not possible to address every objection that would arise while reading this. However, I am more than willing to continue exchange in dialog. I feel that I have failed you in my responsibilities as a minister of the Word of God, and if you . . . then how many others? If nothing else I am being spurred to be more concise and address the needs of the soul with more awareness.
Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.
I will repeat what I said in the beginning . . . no doubt that unjust judgment abounds and is in no short supply in every corner. May God help me not to do what he condemns. It is only because God has revealed what is right that anyone can know it and be definite about it. God has the right answers . . . and the real arrogance is in rejecting what He reveals.
And ps I do enjoy reading what u write bc ur writing do give me things to think about.
You have always been nothing less than respectful to me Amy. I appreciate that . . . not everyone is! Lol. I hope that what I have laid out here is understandable and also gives you food for thought. It is my wish that you would truly come to know Christ as Lord and Savior and find the relationship with Him that He so deeply desires to have with you.
There is so much more I wanted to say concerning the inspiration and recording of Scripture, but this has already taken me many hours to write and I need to rest.