• How Do we Deal with the Ugliest Verse in the Bible?

    Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.
    Psalm 137:9
    They are terrible words aren’t they? They are words that should bring us to have a strong emotional reaction. They are words which many opposed to Christianity will quote in an effort to show the invalidity of the Bible and Christianity. How should a Christian interpret these verses?
    As always we start with the context. We read in verse 1 that they are in Babylon which leads us to assert that this psalm was written after the Babylonians had taken Judah into exile. This had happened because the Israelites had continually rebelled against god their maker and worshiped other gods.
    In war terrible things happen. I dare say that the man who wrote this psalm had seen terrible things done in the name of war as he and his family were taken off to Babylon.
    He probably saw things that made him scream out things like:
    Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.
    Psalm 137:9
    See these are not the words of a politician or a general coming up with a war strategy. These are the deeply pained words of one who has been through war and seen the atrocities of war. He screams out because he wants vengeance. Is this vengeance sinful? Yes.
    So why is it in the Bible? I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, God’s people are in Babylon because if their own sin. They rebelled against god and worshiped other gods. These words are a result of them rebelling against god therefore I think these words are in the BIble to show us where rebelling against God ends up. When you rebel against God you end up in a place which is so ugly and depraved that you may cry out ugly and sinful words like these.
    Secondly, when we take these words in the context of the rest of the book of psalms we see the psalms are full of different kinds of emotion, some high and some very low. One of the reasons that the psalms are replete with emotional language is to show God can connect with and even does welcome our deepest darkest emotions. Therefore I am tentatively proposing that  these words are in the psalms to show that God cares for those of us that are so hate filled that we would utter or think words akin to these. These kind if displays of emotion show that in the end we may want vengeance but we need a saviour who will rescue us from ourselves and ultimately ourselves.
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  • Would The World Be Better Off Without Christians?

    Some people say today that if there was no religion in the world the world would be a better place. Usually this pointed remark is aimed at Christians and Christianity.

    But would the world really be better off if there were no Christians? I think not, if you have a look at all the work Christians organisations do for this world our world would be far worse off without Christians and/or Christianity.

    Country star Brad Paisley nails this point with his song Those Crazy Christians.

    Check out the lyrics here:

    Those crazy Christians, I was gonna sleep in today
    But the church bells woke me up and they’re a half a mile away

    Those crazy Christians, dressed up drivin’ down my street
    Get their weekly dose of guilt before they head to Applebee’s

     

    They pray before they eat and they pray before they snore
    They pray before a football game and every time they score
    Every untimely passing, every dear departed soul
    Is just another good excuse to bake a casserole

     

    Those crazy Christians, go and jump on some airplane
    And fly to Africa or Haiti, risk their lives in Jesus’ name
    No, they ain’t the late night party kind
    They curse the devil’s whiskey while they drink the Savior’s wine

     

    A famous TV preacher has a big affair and then
    One tearful confession and he’s born again again
    Someone yells hallelujah and they shout and clap and sing
    It’s like they can’t wait to forgive someone for just about anything

    Those crazy Christians

     

    Instead of being outside on this sunny afternoon
    They’re by the bedside of a stranger in a cold hospital room
    And every now and then they meet a poor lost soul like me
    Who’s not quite sure just who or what or how he ought to be
    They march him down the aisle and then the next thing that you know
    They dunk him in the water and here comes another one of those crazy Christians

     

    They look to heaven their whole life
    And I think what if they’re wrong but what if they’re right
    You know it’s funny, much as I’m baffled by it all
    If I ever really needed help, well you know who I’d call
    Is those crazy Christians

    Do you think Brad Paisley is right?

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  • Is God Immoral for Being Jealous?

    In the Bible God is described as a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). But this seems to be petty right? When we think of jealousy we think of young kids who are jealous of each other for some stupid reason. So, it goes to reason that God shouldn’t be jealous because jealousy should be beneath him right? Not quite. Here is what Paul Copan says in his great book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God about God’s jealousy: 

    Jealousy can be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s bad to protect the petty; it’s good to fiercely guard the precious. If jealousy is rooted in self-centeredness, it is clearly the wrong kind of jealousy. A jealousy that springs from concern for another’s well-being, however, is appropriate. Yes, jealousy can be a vice (Gal. 5:20—“enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger”). Yet it can also be a virtue, a “godly jealousy,” as Paul put it: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul was concerned for the well-being of the Corinthians. His jealousy didn’t spring from hurt pride or self-concern. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who is a concerned lover. He’s full of anguish and dismay when his covenant people pursue non-gods. In the prophetic book of Hosea, God—the loving husband—gets choked up when his wife, Israel, continually cheats on him: “My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled” (Hosea 11:8). When can jealousy be a good thing? In God’s case, it’s when we’re rummaging around in the garbage piles of life and avoiding the ultimate source of satisfaction. It reminds me of a comic strip I once saw of a dog who had been drinking out of a toilet bowl. With water dripping from his snout, Fido looks up to tell us, “It doesn’t get any better than this!” Instead of enjoying fresh spring water, we look for stagnant, crummy-tasting substitutes that inevitably fail us. God laments over Israel: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”

     

    So God is jealous for us because he loves us and we are his and this is actually for our good.

    Does this help you think better of God being a jealous God?

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  • Is God Arrogant?

    Some people find the idea of God demanding we worship him uncomfortable or plain wrong.  It seems like God is arrogant. I mean If I said “I am the greatest in the world worship me!” you would find me arrogant wouldn’t you? Well the same goes for God than doesn’t it? Or does it?

    Paul Copan in his book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Answers the question “Is God Arrogant” like this:

    Pride, we know, is an inflated view of ourselves—a false advertising campaign promoting ourselves because we suspect that others won’t accept who we really are.2 Pride is actually a lie about our own identity or achievements. To be proud is to live in a world propped up with falsehoods about ourselves, taking credit where credit isn’t due.

    What then is humility? This involves having a realistic assessment of ourselves—our weaknesses and strengths.

    Well, then, is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship. In fact, our word worship is a kind of contraction of the Old English word weorthscipe—or “worth-ship.” So if an all-powerful but despicably evil being demanded our worship, we shouldn’t give it to him. He wouldn’t be worthy of worship.

    So God can demand our worship because he alone is worthy of our worship!

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  • The Checkered Histories of Christiantiy and Atheism

    One of the most used arguments against Christianity is that the Church, Christians and Religion in general have done some some terrible things throughout the ages. Unfortunately any honest person would have to agree. Religious people have been involved in some seriously terrible atrocities and scandals that drag religion through the mud.

    But if we explore the history of atheism we see that atheism has got it’s own skeletons in it’s closet. But many of the new Atheists are reticent to admit the wrongs of atheism’s past. Paul Copan in his book Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God says this about the New Atheists unwillingness to own up to atheism’s checkered past:

     The New Atheists aren’t willing to own up to atrocities committed in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong, yet they expect Christians to own up to all barbarous acts performed in Jesus’s name. In one debate, Dennett refused to connect Stalin’s brutality and inhumanity with his hard-core atheism. In fact, he claimed that Stalin was a kind of “religious” figure! In September 2009, I attended a debate between Hitchens and Dinesh D’Souza in Orlando. Hitchens refused to admit that Stalin killed “in the name of atheism.” Somehow Stalin, who had once attended a Russian Orthodox seminary but later came to convincingly repudiate Christianity, was still “religious” after all. Yet Hitchens insisted that a religious residue still stayed with him. So atheism wasn’t the culprit. Yet in another debate, Hitchens was pressed to make the seemingly rare confession: “It has to be said that some of my non-believing forbears seized the opportunity to behave the same way [as immoral religious persons], sure.

    Why do the New Atheists find it hard to own up to the atrocities that atheists have committed. Copan offers this analysis:

    I think the reason it’s difficult, if not impossible, for these New Atheists to acknowledge immorality in the name of atheism is because it would take much wind out of their sails when criticizing religion. If we’d stop to ask, “Would Jesus approve of the Inquisition or persecuting Jews?” the question answers itself. As a counterillustration, what about serial murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer? Dahmer reasoned, “If it all happens naturalistically, what’s the need for a God? Can’t I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself.” He wondered, if there’s no God and we all just came “from the slime,” then “what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?”

    What a chilling paragraph!

    What can Christians say about the Church and or Christians doing terrible things in the name of Jesus? We can point to numerous things. But I will only give two:

    1. God hates hypocritical religion. All through out the Bible there is hypocritical religion and God judges this sin harshly. So when we think of our hatred of the church doing bad things we must remember that Gods hatred burns even hotter than ours and his anger towards these atrocities will one day come to bear on the perpetrators if they haven’t repented.

    2. Jesus said there will be wolves among the sheep. There will be people in the church who will look like Christians but really they aren’t and these people may do things that are absolutely unspeakable. This doesn’t mean that the church gets off on a technicality but it does mean that churches should be very careful before putting people into leadership.

    Both Atheism and Christianity have a checkered history. This fact points us to the sinfulness of all humanity and our need for a saviour.

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  • What do Atheistic Philosophy Professors Really Think of Richard Dawkins?

    Richard Dawkins, Hitchens and the other New Atheists still get quite a big run for their money nowadays. People still say they are atheists and talk about Dawkins or use his arguments to back up their claims of there being no God. But what do academics think of Dawkins? Better yet, what do atheistic academics think of Dawkins and the rest of the new atheists?

    In 2009 atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse )who currently teaches at Florida State University.) Wrote a piece called Dawkins et al bring us into disrepute. The article is about squabbling among atheists.In it he says the following:

    Second, unlike the new atheists, I take scholarship seriously. I have written that The God Delusion made me ashamed to be an atheist and I meant it. Trying to understand how God could need no cause, Christians claim that God exists necessarily. I have taken the effort to try to understand what that means. Dawkins and company are ignorant of such claims and positively contemptuous of those who even try to understand them, let alone believe them. Thus, like a first-year undergraduate, he can happily go around asking loudly, “What caused God?” as though he had made some momentous philosophical discovery. Dawkins was indignant when, on the grounds that inanimate objects cannot have emotions, philosophers like Mary Midgley criticised his metaphorical notion of a selfish gene. Sauce for the biological goose is sauce for the atheist gander. There are a lot of very bright and well informed Christian theologians. We atheists should demand no less.

     

    Third, how dare we be so condescending? I don’t have faith. I really don’t. Rowan Williams does as do many of my fellow philosophers like Alvin Plantinga (a Protestant) and Ernan McMullin (a Catholic). I think they are wrong; they think I am wrong. But they are not stupid or bad or whatever. If I needed advice about everyday matters, I would turn without hesitation to these men. We are caught in opposing Kuhnian paradigms. I can explain their faith claims in terms of psychology; they can explain my lack of faith claims also probably partly through psychology and probably theology also. (Plantinga, a Calvinist, would refer to original sin.) I just keep hearing Cromwell to the Scots. “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” I don’t think I am wrong, but the worth and integrity of so many believers makes me modest in my unbelief.

    To Michael Ruse Richard Dawkins is an arrogant embarassment to atheists the world over.

    If you are an atheists I would love to hear what you think.

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  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Atheism

    A lot of atheists think all religious people would be better off if we ditched our religious beliefs and became atheists. Not only would we be using our brains for once but we would see freedom from religion as ultimately freeing.

    But there is an ugly side to atheism that many new atheists don’t really talk about. Whether or not it is true, atheism is an extremely bleak outlook on life, humanity and the world. Damon Linker wrote a piece called Where are the Honest Atheists? in which he sums up the bleakness of atheism perfectly:

    If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

    Atheism therefore may free us from the constrains of religion but this freedom it gives is not really freedom at all. Because it is freedom to despair whereas the freedom that Christianity gives is the freedom to be joyful! Not only does reason and evidence favour Christianity over atheism but Christianity also gives the greater life.

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  • An Argument for the Existence of God from Beauty

    Our recognition of Creativity and beauty is one of the many reasons I think God exists. What advantage does recognizing creativity or beauty have in the survival of the fittest? But, if there is a creator God we should expect to be blown away by creativity and beauty because he has been creative in creating this beautiful world and therefore creativity and beauty have intrinsic value because they point us to our great creator God.

    If you are an atheist or an agnostic how would you respond?

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  • Are all religions just culturally conditioned?

    One of the things that irks most people today is to say that there is only one right religion. I mean how arrogant is that! As a Christian how can I say that my beliefs are better or more truthful than a Muslim’s beliefs or a Buddhist’s beliefs?

    One of the biggest objections to the idea of exclusivism (the belief that there is only one God and there is only one way to that God) is to assert that all religions are just culturally conditioned responses to reality. The argument goes like this: I am a white western male and therefore it is obvious that I would be a Christian because generally white western males, if they are going to believe in something, they will believe in the Christian God. But if I grew up in Morocco I would be a Muslim because most males in Morocco are Muslim. Therefore if this is true then this proves that all religions are culturally conditioned responses to reality and we should not say one is better than the other!

    Here is how the great philosopher Alvin Plantinga responds to this objection:

    “Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would have been quite different. But the same Goes for the pluralist.. If the pluralist had been born in Morocco he probably wouldn’t be a pluralist. Does it follow that… his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief producing process?’

    Alvin Plantinga, A Defense of Religious Exclusivism, p. 205

    In this quote Plantinga points out that the objection cuts both ways. For example, if an atheist student had been born in Morocco, then he probably would be a Muslim, not an atheist!  Does it follow that his atheist beliefs are merely conditioned by his parents or peers?  As Tim Keller observes “You can’t say, ‘All claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now.’”

    All people whether they are Christians, Muslims or atheists are products of the cultures they were raised in. But atheists would never want to say that their atheism is merely the result of cultural conditioning.

    When we go down the road of claiming that those who disagree with me only believe what they believe because of their culture or upbringing or some because of ignorance I am not giving their position any respect.  I am simply patronizing them and really I don’t care about them or their position I am just trying to be right.

    Are religions culturally conditioned. To certain extent yes. But that doesn’t mean that there is no one true religion.

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  • Why You Should Listen to a Historian and Not a Hack on The Existence of Jesus

    Some Jesus deniers say that is doesn’t matter if no professional historian denies the existence of Jesus. They say academic credentials don’t matter only the arguments do.

    Bart Ehrman in his book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth shows why not listening to professional historians on this issue is ridiculous:

    “I hardly need to stress what I have already intimated: the view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet. That in itself is not proof, of course. Expert opinion is, at the end of the day, still opinion. But why would you not want to know what experts have to say? When you make a dental appointment, do you want your dentist to be an expert or not? If you build a house, do you want a professional architect or your next-door neighbor to draw up the plans? One might be tempted to say that in the case of the historical Jesus it is different since, after all, we are just talking about history; experts have no more access to the past than anyone else. That, however, is simply not true. It may be the case that some of my students receive the bulk of their knowledge of the Middle Ages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but is that really the best place to turn? So too millions of people have acquired their “knowledge” about early Christianity—about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the emperor Constantine, the Council of Nicaea—from Dan Brown, author of the aforementioned The Da Vinci Code. But at the end of the day, is that such a wise choice? Serious historians of the early Christian movement—all of them—have spent many years preparing to be experts in their field. Just to read the ancient sources requires expertise in a range of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and often Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic, not to mention the modern languages of scholarship (for example, German and French). And that is just for starters. Expertise requires years of patiently examining ancient texts and a thorough grounding in the history and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the religions of the ancient Mediterranean world, both pagan and Jewish, knowledge of the history of the Christian church and the development of its social life and theology, and, well, lots of other things. It is striking that virtually everyone who has spent all the years needed to attain these qualifications is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure. Again, this is not a piece of evidence, but if nothing else, it should give one pause. In the field of biology, evolution may be “just” a theory (as some politicians painfully point out), but it is the theory subscribed to, for good reason, by every real scientist in every established university in the Western world.”

    So if no professional historian denies the existence of Jesus why would anyone else?

    Do you find Ehrman’s argument persuasive? Why or why not?

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