Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does God Exist? A debate between Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe

This was a very interesting and powerful debate. I often wonder how would Sam Harris handle an able Rabbi? Answer: He can't. David Wolpe argued against atheism and not exclusively for Judaism. I don't agree with Him that all the monotheistic religions lead to God because if so, it would not matter which religion you join. They are too different and make too many contradictory truth claims for that position to hold. However Rabbi's Wolpe's worldview is better than atheism.

Does God Exist? A debate between Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe
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FacePalm of the Day #31 - Debunking Christianity: Why I Don’t Believe the Bible is God’s Word

John Loftus never ceases to amaze me with how much he misunderstands what Christians believe. I wonder what Bible is he reading and what church did he go to before he turned apostate. In the latest FacePalm worthy post, he tries to explain why not believing that the Bible is God's word is reasonable. I decided to annotate his post. His original text is in italics.

According to Calvinists I don’t believe because God has determined from the beginning of time that I should not believe. It’s God’s secret will for me. I cannot believe unless God wants me to believe. It doesn’t bring him as much glory if I believe, so this is what he wants. He does not want me to believe the Bible is his word. For the Calvinist this is the end of the discussion. For me, it presents an additional reason why I don’t believe, for not only do I not see the evidence to believe, I also reject the supposition that God would both call on me to believe and at the same time secretly desire that I should not believe. What does God really desire here?...that I don’t believe…that’s the bottom line. My unbelief is exactly what God desires. It brings him the most glory. Calvinists should praise God that I don't believe. But what kind of God is this? See here.

Loftus mischaracterizes and mistakes what Calvinists teach. I'm not sure where he gets his understanding of Calvinism from. Several problems right off the bat. I'm going to ignore the fact he just tries to make this a tirade against Calvinism and not try to make Arminian arguments (though that would be easy because Loftus and most atheists think we have free will). How ever let us keep it simple. No where in the entire Bible does it say that God doesn't want anyone not to believe or not come to repentance. His unbelief is not what God desires. God's glory is independent of whether he, you, or I believe. Um, that is why He is God. I know Hyper Calvinists believe in double predestination that God decrees people to either heaven or hell. I can't find any scripture to back that up. Also manymany Calvinists like James White and RC Sproul don't hold this idea.

Analogies seem to break down somewhere, but here’s one: If I was a boss and told an employee to do a particular task, but I secretly threw obstacles in his way that kept him from doing this task and then fired him for not doing the task, I would need to see a shrink. Or, I hated that employee or the company itself. But no one who knew what I did would think I was a good employer and that I worked in the best interests of the company. Even if the employee was a very poor worker and deserved to be fired in the first place, I would still be duplicitous in my dealings with him, and hence not trustworthy to deal straightforwardly and honestly with any of the other employees.

Let's suggest a more realistic analogies. God isn't a boss working for a company. God is a king with all power and authority. As employees (er..subjects) of said King...we aren't just bad employees. We are criminals deserving death for the crimes we have done. "Being fired" would just be the tip of the iceberg of what we deserve. God isn't being "duplicitous" in His dealing with us. We are. Loftus assumes that we are able to reason and understand the evidence around us in a correct manner. Why is that? If we are as hopelessly enslaved to our own sin, as the Bible says we are, how can we hope to correctly understand or reason our way to God. Simple answer: We cannot. We cannot deal straightforwardly with God or each other without God's help.

Now to just a few of the reasons why I don’t believe the Bible is God’s word.

This have been good, but it wasn't. It's train wreck.

1) I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done. I am not consciously rebelling against God because I sincerely do not believe he even exists. I’m following what I have come to believe to the best of my abilities as a thinking and educated person. Christians who proclaim that “the doors of hell are locked from the inside” along with C.S. Lewis, are making a ridiculous claim to me. If hell is painful to any degree, then I would want out. If hell is what I want and/or enjoyable to me in any sense, then it’s not punishment.

John Loftus does not understand how evil and bad our sins are so horrible. Hell does fit the crime. Against an infinite God, why wouldn't an infinite penalty be demanded? Every time one consciously denies the power of God and his right to command us and refuse to glorify Him one is in conscious rebellion against God. Loftus wrote "I’m following what I have come to believe to the best of my abilities as a thinking and educated person." And that is the problem. Our intellect and abilities are not enough. No one is educated enough on their own to satisfy what God has demanded of us. God has every right to make such commands and demands. He made us not the other way around.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
- John 6:44

2) The Bible contains too many beliefs which we reject today. Christians must scramble to reinterpret these things along the lines of modern science, psychology, and biology. I call these things the Achilles Heel of Christianity, including the the Hebrew view of the Universe. Take for instance the modern Christian view of hell, mentioned above. The standard view of hell was of everlasting punishment in a lake of fire, but with such a repugnant view in light of the knowledge of a global world of sincere people, Christians are arguing for annihilation, or a metaphorical view of hell, like C.S. Lewis. Another recent change in Christian theology is Preterism, as a way to explain why Jesus hasn’t returned to earth as it was believed in the earliest centuries of the church. Now it’s said that Jesus already returned to earth in the year 70 A.D., so that there is no longer any serious problem with a the purportedly failed promise of Jesus to return, “within this generation.”

The world is sincere alright. Sincerely sinful. No one is righteous. Our rightesousness is like filthy rags in comparison to what God requires. Loftus does not understand what Preterism is because it's not about saying that Jesus came already in 70 AD only that much of the prophecies were fulfilled then, especially Matthew 24. Jesus did not say that he would return in his disciples' generation. He provides no exegesis to prove that Jesus did. He also makes the assertion that the Bible gets modern science, psychology, and biology wrong. He's wrong. There is no where in the Bible that says the Bible is flat. I agree that trying to legitimate the Bible by reading in points from science that the authors did not intend make is stupid but likewise reading in superstition and error that isn't there is equally dumb.

3) The God of the Bible is a barbaric God . Such a view is much more indicative of ancient conceptions of a king in a cruel world than in what Christians today would expect from such a God.

Loftus continues to make arguments to debunk a God that the Bible does not present. What definition is he using to understand what "barbaric" is? Why should I accept his opinion. God is indeed King of all. He does whatever he wants. However he wants. Whenever he wants. Or allows. The Bible does not present a God that is capricious or takes joy in human suffering. I have only experienced a God that is like the God of the Bible.

4) There are so many unanswered questions in the Bible about God, his nature and his work. How is it possible for God to foreknow the future? How is it possible for a being to never learn anything, and to always and forever exist as three-in-one without ever growing incrementally into something more and more complex? How is it possible for there to exist a being who is 100% man and 100% God with every essential attribute necessary for both? Why was his death on the cross necessary before God could forgive sins? What does it mean for Jesus, as part of the Godhead, to intercede on our behalf with God the Father, another part of the Godhead?

Just because there are unanswered questions that God has chosen to not reveal the answer does not mean that there is no God. Omniscience would include knowing the future before it happen. God doesn't just know what will happen. He also directs the future. His Omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience should boggle our minds. How does the finite fully comprehend the infinite? Perfection means never having to grow or become better or complex. The Bible clearly tells us why Jesus' death was necessary. Our sins are so horrendous that it took an infinitely pure and perfect sacrifice to propitiate our sins and satisfy the wrath of God. Wrath that you and I deserve. Instead of making us pay. Jesus paid for it. As for Jesus' intercession our his people's behalf, the point of the sacrificial system, including Yom Kippur, was to be picture to help us understand what Jesus did. The Epistle to the Hebrews explains how that works. Check it out.

5) There are problems I have with the claims of miracles in the Bible. How can we judge that they ever happened when we must believe the writings of ancient superstitious people to do so?...and when there were numerous claims of miracles in that same ancient world, claims that Christians themselves will deny , including those of other faiths and cults today. This is especially true when we consider the whole nature of historical study. Anything can be doubted in history especially miraculous claims, and yet God wants us to believe based upon history? If, however, God grants us all personal experience of the Holy Spirit , then why is it so many people who were born in different times and places do not sense it, or if they do, they don’t understand it’s coming from the Christian God?

Can Loftus prove that anyone whom we traditionally believe wrote the Bible were superstitious? Nope. The Bible allows for miracles and acts to be seen from other sources that from God. There is no reason to take the idea that other religions can offer miraculous experiences from other sources! Read Deuteronomy 13 to see how we are to be able to tell if a source of miracles is from God or not.

6) Then too, the way that NT writers and persons argued leave a whole lot to be desired. Paul and Jesus argued in an ignorant fashion. Matthew claims Jesus fulfilled prophecy but his exegesis of the OT texts is flawed.

Proof? Anything? I hear crickets. I see he made links to pass articles but when you read them you see that they are just as empty as this one. If he can state his opinion and assertions about what The Bible says, I can make judgments on his statements as well.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

[First posted 7/12/06]

Good thing to quit while one is behind.

Debunking Christianity: Why I Don’t Believe the Bible is God’s Word.
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