Where people come from

Over at Evangelical Realism, we’re discussing the presuppositional argument for where people come from. Persons, it seems have to come from a personal god. Bears, however, don’t need to come from a bear god, or trees from a tree god, so there may be a bit of bias behind the notion that persons have to come from a Person god. And that’s not the least of Pastor Feinstein’s problems.

Leaving your church

A commenter on yesterday’s post mentioned wishing there was an English version of that Dutch website that helps people “de-baptize” from Roman Catholicism. That got me thinking: wouldn’t it be cool if there were a web site for the English-speaking world that would help people find the correct procedure to follow to officially become ex-members of whatever church they were originally baptized into? So I did a Google search on “how to leave the church” to see if any existing resource was like that.

I was stunned. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Page after page of stories, articles, and advice to Christians on how to leave their church. All from Christians. Obviously, they all assume that you still believe, and are going to look for another church that suits you better. As a former Christian who left a lot of churches during my “spiritual journey,” I should have realized that this would be a common topic. But still, the sheer scope of the phenomenon suddenly struck me in a way it never has before. Christians go to church looking for God, but sooner or later, a lot of them end up realizing that they need to look somewhere else.

Kinda tells you something, doesn’t it?

Dutch website helps people leave Catholic Church

Reuters is reporting some good news: in the Netherlands, you can go to a web site that will help turn Catholics into ex-Catholics, and the Church’s anti-gay stance is driving traffic to the site.

Tom Roes, whose website allows people to download the documents needed to leave the church, said traffic on ontdopen.nl – “de-baptise.nl” – had soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict’s latest denunciation of gay marriage this month.

“Of course it’s not possible to be ‘de-baptized’ because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics,” Roes told Reuters.

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Gospel Hypothesis 10: Evil

There’s lots more we could say about the Gospel Hypothesis and the Myth Hypothesis, but I’m going to wrap up this series with the big one: sin and evil. If the Myth Hypothesis is true, then there’s no reason to expect the universe to be particularly concerned about our well-being and happiness. As material beings, we’re going to be subject to the same limitations, weaknesses, and life expectancy of any other material organism. We’re going to depend on—and compete for—material resources like food and shelter, and sometimes those things are going to be lacking. A certain amount of suffering is going to be normal, but we’re going to care about it and want to avoid it, and so we’re going to identify it as “evil” or some similar concept.

“Sin,” in the sense of offense committed against a deity, won’t exist per se, but offenses against people will. To the extent that we identify certain behaviors as socially unacceptable, we’ll have what you might call sins, even without any gods. And to the extent that people are willing to forgive us for our offenses, we’ll even have forgivable sin, repentance, and redemption, all without God. People may forgive sin, or not, but there won’t be any gods to do so. Thus, there won’t be any divine punishments for sin either. There will, of course, be natural disasters, which superstitious people may arbitrarily attribute to God, but God Himself won’t ever show up and say, “This happened because I was angry about such-and-such.” It will all be superstition.

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The Gospel Hypothesis 9: Theology

Science is a technique for doing two things: it allows us to understand the world around us, and it allows us to detect and correct any misunderstanding that may arise in the process. Both aspects of science stem from the same practice: making detailed and verifiable observations of the reality that surrounds us. This practice of constantly referring back to the real world is what makes scientific understanding so useful and reliable.

Obviously, in order to make detailed and verifiable observations of something, it first has to exist in the real world. Since the Gospel Hypothesis implies that God really does exist, and since the Myth Hypothesis implies that He does not, the science of theology is clearly going to have very different characters depending on which hypothesis is most nearly correct.

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The Gospel Hypothesis 8: Miracles

Most implications of the Gospel Hypothesis are starkly different from those of the Myth Hypothesis, and miracles seem like they ought to be a prime example. After all, if God does not exist, then necessarily He is not going to be working any genuine miracles, and the closest we’ll be able to get will be superstitions, misunderstandings, and unverifiable rumors and legends.

Ironically, however, the Gospel Hypothesis also predicts that there won’t be any miracles—though for a very different reason.

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Gospel Hypothesis 7: Churches

According to the Gospel Hypothesis, God is going to be perfectly loving, perfectly kind, perfectly wise and perfectly capable of interacting with us both as a wise and loving Father and as a wise and benevolent King. This implies a high level of involvement in our everyday lives, both because His love motivates Him to want a great deal of personal interaction, and because His wisdom and leadership skills will make it plain to Him how much better off we’ll all be if we have the benefit of His guidance and leadership.

Meanwhile the Myth Hypothesis, obviously enough, implies that such leadership and personal interactions will be absent, since no such God exists to provide it. Where the Gospel Hypothesis implies that everyone will know who God is and what He wants, the Myth Hypothesis implies that believers will have to find something else to fill up the gap. And that, in turn, has some distinctive implications when it comes to the church.

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“I have written a book”

Over at Evangelical Realism, it’s time for our weekly dose of presuppositional apologetics, about which Pastor Feinstein could write a book. I wish he’d just publish the one he’s already written, because based on the excerpt he provides, it sounds like he’s got a good start on disproving all the supernatural elements in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Gospel Hypothesis 6: Evangelism

This one is as definitive as it is inevitable: if the Myth Hypothesis is true, then no matter how perfectly loving and perfectly powerful and perfectly wise and perfectly good and perfectly fearless God is supposed to be, you’re never going to hear about it from Him. He doesn’t exist, so He can’t be the one who knocks on your door and says, “Hi, have you heard the good news about Me?” The Myth Hypothesis requires that, while there may be stories about God showing up in person to tell people how much He cares about them, you’re only going to hear such stories from ordinary people. And fortunately for atheists, that’s all you and I ever do see.

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Gospel Hypothesis 5: The contents of Scripture

While we’re talking about Scriptures, it’s also worth pointing out that the Gospel Hypothesis and the Myth Hypothesis imply different things about the actual contents of any Scriptures that might arise. The Gospel Hypothesis implies that God’s Word ought to be perfect, since God is perfect. It ought to reflect a level of knowledge consistent with the perfect knowledge of its Author, and it ought to have the same timeless, unchanging perspective of an eternal deity. By contrast, the Myth Hypothesis implies a Bible that reflects its human origins, and records all the ignorance, superstition, and cultural biases of the people that produced it.

Granted, believers are always going to find ways of interpreting Scripture to work around such blemishes as failed prophecies, barbaric cultural values, and changing doctrines. The point is not that believers can’t come up with rationalizations for the all-too-human foibles of the ancient prophets. The point is that their work-arounds can never be as simple as the Myth Hypothesis is. The Gospel Hypothesis has to explain it, but the Myth Hypothesis predicts it.

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