Dialogs with Eric, Part 2: Does God believe what men say?

In my post on salvation by faith, I mentioned the fact that God does not behave as though He believed all the things men say about Him, particularly as concerns His alleged love for us and His alleged desire to be part of a personal, loving and real relationship with each of us. Eric takes issue with this observation, and offers a number of standard Christian responses, but also expresses the wish that I would say more about what I mean. And I’m glad to do so.

[Read more…]

The power to define is the power to destroy

I was skimming through the news headlines and saw an article that got me thinking. I’ve since lost the link, so I can’t really quote it here, but it’s a sadly all-too-common tale: Christians complaining about liberals and how gay rights activists are trying to “change the definition” of marriage.

So here’s the thing: Christians want the right to define what marriage is, and that in itself is not a bad thing. Christians should have the right to decide for themselves what the true definition of marriage is. The problem is that they not only want to define marriage for themselves, they want to define it for everyone else as well. They want to deny to others the right of definition that they claim exclusively for themselves.

[Read more…]

Eyewitness

Here’s an lightly-edited excerpt from this week’s installment of my chapter-by-chapter analysis of William Lane Craig’s book, On Guard:

In a study published in 2003 [PDF], psychology researchers Gary Wells and Elizabeth Loftus gave an example of how eyewitness testimony can evolve over time. A young woman was sexually assaulted and her friend was murdered. The young woman, Sherry Gillaspey worked with a police artist to put together a composite sketch of the assailant, and based this sketch, a young man named Thomas Brewster became a “person of interest.”

What happened next is a textbook case of how eyewitness testimony can be “improved” over time.

[Read more…]

Gospel Disproof #32: Salvation by faith

In Gospel Disproof #28 we looked at conditional salvation and how bizarre it was to suppose that a loving and self-sufficient Father would create a situation where His beloved children would go to Hell forever unless they met certain rarely-obtained conditions. As a parenting scenario, it just doesn’t work, but by an odd coincidence it works great as a tool for manipulating people and making them think that they have to submit to you and your teachings in order to be saved.

Salvation by faith takes that manipulation one step further: not only does your salvation depend on submitting to some human teacher, but you have to believe that what he tells you is absolutely and infallibly true. It’s not enough to merely try to be good or to behave in ways that make you an asset to the community. You have to believe, even when it makes no sense, and even when it’s in conflict with what you see around you.

[Read more…]

Gospel Disproof #31: Burning coals

Ask the average layman who Jesus was, and if they’re a more secular/liberal sort of person you’ll probably hear that he was a “great moral teacher.” Ironically, however, the one uniquely Christian moral principle he taught was this:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Great philosophy, isn’t it? Let’s dismantle airport security and send Al Qaeda free tickets. Do good to those that hate you, give them whatever they want, let them hurt you and take your stuff and get away with it.

Obviously, for all their praise, even Christians do not follow Jesus’ one uniquely Christian moral teaching, except on rare occasions when it’s to their advantage to do so. This is a doctrine whose true virtue lies not so much in practicing it as in just teaching it. Hypocrisy aside, there’s a certain gloss of nobility and selflessness in the idea of being more generous to one’s enemies than they are to you.

Unless you look at this sentiment in its biblical context.

[Read more…]

Exercise

Freedom is like a muscle: if you don’t exercise it, you lose it. We can’t just sit back and expect the First Amendment to protect us. If all that stands between the wealthy and their profits is a “goddamn piece of paper,” they will find a way around it. They’ll even buy whatever legislative influence it takes to make it all nice and “legal.”

SOPA, PROTECT IP, and now RWA, are all working hard to take something that fails to profit the wealthy (i.e. your First Amendment freedoms), and exchange it for more lucrative controls that keep the money flowing out of your pockets and into theirs, indefinitely. Freedom of the many, versus the profits of the few. It’s an uneven contest, and if we don’t defend our individual liberties, we’ll lose them.

What is SOPA?

A significant loophole

I got into an interesting discussion with Jayman777 over at Evangelical Realism on the topic of whether the New Testament documents can be considered independent accounts of first century events. After I pointed out that the NT documents are derived from a common source (church tradition), Jayman replied:

[C]laiming that NT authors are not independent of each other runs counter to the scholarly consensus. In the Gospels alone scholars typically point out the Markan tradition, the Q tradition, the independent Matthean tradition, the independent Lukan tradition, and the Johannine tradition. At least Craig is apparently starting from a consensus position.

My response to that was that, scholarly consensus or not, if you have a bunch of people collaborating for years and even decades on preaching a common and consistent story, it’s rather silly to call them independent sources. If that’s not collaborating on a common story, then what is? But after I made that reply, I realized that I was overlooking a rather significant loophole, and that the scholarly consensus could be right after all.

[Read more…]

On the effectiveness of prayer

From time to time various people attempt to study the effect of prayer under real-world conditions, and it occurs to me that we have ideal conditions for undertaking such a study right now. The Cranston West High School has recently concluded a 48-year experiment in which students were exposed to a specific “School Prayer” on a daily basis. Has this prayer worked? Granted, atheists and unbelievers of various sorts might be expected to resist the effects of pious appeals to the Almighty Heavenly Father, so we shouldn’t look at the impact it has had on the godless. Instead, let’s examine the specific petitions in the prayer and see how it has changed believers’ lives, attitudes, and conduct.

[Read more…]