The truth about the New Atheism: an interview with David Marshall

I had the immense privilege to interview historian, sociologist and Christian apologist David Marshall on militant atheists and their arguments. I truly hope you’ll appreciate it!

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Lotharson: Hello David, thank you very much for having accepted my invitation. Could you please sum up your background for my readers?
David Marshall: Sure. I am from a Christian background, and grew up in Seattle. My academic background involves a lot of study of languages and research in history and Asian cultures, culminating in a PhD for which I offered what I believe is the best Christian model of religions, which I call “Fulfillment Theology.” I’ve written five books, edited another, and contributed to others, my most popular so far being “True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture” and “The Truth Behind the New Atheism.” (But the meatiest is Jesus and the Religions of Man.) I am presently writing two other books actively, and three more passively. Each is on a very big subject; I will try not to be glib. :- )
Lotharson: So, you seem to have quite a large field of interest 🙂 What rose your passion for the intellectual arguments between Christians and atheists?
David Marshall: I was going to blame C. S. Lewis, in my misbegotten youth, but then a line from a country music song came to mind, “Heck it could be my fault.” There’s a little atheist inside of me, and it’s easiest to squelch him when the big atheists outside of me throw up such softball challenges to my Christian faith. Also I agree with Clement of Alexandria, who perceived that there was some truth in almost every school of thought — truth that is fulfilled best by Christ.

 

On militant atheism and religious fundamentalism

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Lotharson: Your fascinating views on the relationship between God’s revelation in Christ and other religions will (hopefully) be the topic of a future interview. Right now, I’m interested by what you wrote on the New Atheists. Could you summarize what the “New Atheism” is? Is it (more or less) a synonym for “anti-theism” or “militant atheism”?
David Marshall: Atheists themselves differ on whether or not to accept or even glory in the term “The New Atheism.” Some say there’s nothing new about their views, and in a sense, I agree: the tone adopted by Richard Dawkins is very like that of the Left Hegelians in your own native Germany back in the mid-19th Century, culimating with Karl Marx. But I see four factors as distinguishing this wave: (1) Reaction to 9/11, along the lines of “That nasty Taliban! Now how can we use revulsion against radical Islam to dump on Christianity as well? I know! We’ll lump them all in the same bag!” (2) Particular concern over the supposed threat American Christian poses to democracy. (3) Focus on or exageration of the dark side of Christian history, “Hitler’s Pope,” that kind of thing. (4) Drawing on radical “historical Jesus” material, from the Jesus Seminar and Bart Ehrman, to more fringe characters like Hector Avalos, Robert Price and Richard Carrier.

 

Lotharson: A small correction: I’m a Germanic Frenchman from a historically German-speaking French region 🙂

So, is it fair to say that the New Atheism (or anti-theism) can be summed up by the two following sentences:

1) Religious beliefs are false
2) Religious beliefs are bad and ought to disappear?

David Marshall: Quite so.

 

Belligerent secularism and nasty rhetoric

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Lotharson: Okay. How does this play out in terms of rhetoric?
David Marshall: I am trying to think of a prominent atheist who identifies with that movement, who is polite, and really listens to the other side. Is that what you’re wondering?
Lotharson: Yeah kind of 🙂 Do you know striking examples of rude and bullying behavior which are characteristic of the whole movement?
Or examples of famous New Atheists calling their followers to use an aggressive and nasty rhetoric?
David Marshall: Sheesh. Read my blog post, “PZ Myers, Guru of Hate,” if you can stomach that sort of thing. That charts one internal conflict on their side — I take out all the swear words. It is tacitly assumed in many quarters that the real problem with such nastiness is that it is directed at fellow unbelievers, rather than the real enemy, us.
Lotharson: And by “us”, they mean ALL religious believers, right? Even progressive Christians opposing the Religious Right are viewed as their enemies, am I correct?
David Marshall: Of course “Gnus” are a diverse lot, and not all are as vitriolic as Dr. Myers’ followers tend to be. But yes, Richard Dawkins, in his (relatively) more civilized way, goes out of the way to emphasize that liberal Christians are also a serious problem, as do such people as Greta Christiana.

Lotharson: Yeah, they argue that the existence of moderate and peaceful religious believers NECESSARILY cause the existence of nasty fundamentalists and Islamists.

So, according to them the evil has to be cut at the root.

Do they have strong historical and sociological arguments for backing up this claim?
David Marshall: Well, of course not. The best they do is vaguely cite sociologist Phil Zuckerman, who is fond of Denmark, as who isn’t besides Hamlet? But Zuckerman himself is more careful, and shows (without meaning to) that a lot of the success of the societies he deems as most successful, derives historically from their Christian roots. (I challenged him on this in person, and he did not deny it, being an honest scholar.)
Lotharson: And there is one thing they don’t take into consideration: the greater happiness of Denmark in comparison to religious America might very well be due to factors unrelated to religion and atheism, such as their much more SOCIALIST economy and social system.

Is it fair to say so?
David Marshall: I wrote an article some years ago in which I gave some 20-25 problems with such arguments. They are multiply flawed in too many ways to give a simple summation: the popular versions of such arguments are junk scholarship. As a Burkean conservative with a father who owned an apartment with welfare Moms, though, you’ll have to torture me to confess the superior merits of the Welfare State. :- )

Lotharson: Okay, I won’t insist then 🙂

On sociological studies on the benefits of “Religion”.

Benefits of atheism and religions

I generally find it pretty frustrating that in most sociological and historical studies comparing religion with lack of faith, religion (as a whole) is directly compared with atheism (as a whole).

Given the HUGE diversity of atheists and religious believers out there, I view these studies as providing us with very few useful information.
I think that a good study would compare a lot of groups of different believers with different atheists, such as:

1) Conservative Catholics

2) Liberal Catholics

3) Calvinists

4) Charismatic Christians

5) Mystical Muslims.

6) Godless communists

7) Secular Capitalists

8) Buddhists

and so on and so forth.

This would really allow us to learn more about the subject, and I’m sure that we could find out that certain religious groups fare much better than others, and that the same thing holds for the very diverse atheistic groups present in our world.

So the question should not be: “Is religion (ON AVERAGE) better than atheism (ON AVERAGE) in terms of societal happiness, but rather “What are the impacts of the many specific worldviews out there?”

Do you agree?
David Marshall: Yeah. I also dispute the usual definition of “religion.” Peter Berger pointed out that the term is defined in functional as well as substantive ways: what Paul Tillich called an “ultimate concern” being to me the best definition. Everyone has an ultimate concern. And no, a few decades after the Marxist holocaust, we can’t just sweep those crimes under the rug, either. Nor do they seem to have been total aberrations.I also like the definition of Christianity as meaning, “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.” Christianity PREDICTS evil by its followers. But I argue historically that the Gospel has in fact utterly transformed the world for the better — and the Bible predicts that, too.

 

The intellectual depth of anti-theism

NewAtheismLotharson: The New Atheists also pretend we can know beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist, and most of them seem to also believe that we can be pretty sure that matter is the ultimate reality. What do you think of the intellectual depth of the arguments they deploy for showing this?
David Marshall: Miracles happen. God works in the world. Deal with it.
Lotharson: Okay, so are they as mighty as a fundamentalist proclaiming these three sentences without any evidence? 🙂
David Marshall: Well, of course it’s hard to come up with evidence for a negative. And SOME New Atheists try fitfully to deal with the positive evidence for Christian miracles and God’s work in the world. (John Loftus‘ friends are examples.) But they tend to stay near the shallow end of the pool, and don’t seem to know much about that evidence, really. I’ve never seen one analyze Craig Keener‘s massive study of miracles around the world, for instance — not that it isn’t vulnerable in spots. Some do try to undermine the Gospel narrative, and arguments for the resurrection — though the more serious arguers seem to mostly predate the New Atheist movement, and don’t seem often to identify with it. Richard Carrier has just published a book trying to prove Jesus never lived — he wishes to make that position intellectually respectable. He does at least have a PhD in Roman history — the history of science — from Columbia, and reads a lot, even if he doesn’t always report what he reads very circumspectly.

Lotharson: Of course, this raises a lot of questions about miracles we don’t have the time to go into here.

The nature of “faith”.

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But I think this leads us to wonder about how the New Atheists view “faith”. What are your own experiences with this and how does it relate to the way you (and most of your Christian friends) understand “faith”?
David Marshall: They universally misunderstand it. Even those who know better. It’s a fascinating sociological phenomena. The most recent best-seller that does this is Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists — the whole ingenious work is based on the patently absurd notion that by “faith,” Christians mean “believing without any evidence.”
Lotharson: And why do you view this notion as “patently absurd”?
David Marshall: Of course they don’t have any evidence for that, because they haven’t bothered to do any research. I have. (See our recent book, True Reason, including one chapter with Dr. Timothy McGrew, also the relevant chapter in The Truth Behind the New Atheism.)

It’s the height of irony — every single New Atheist bases his critique of Christianity on the objection that Christians demand faith without checking the facts first — but none of them bothers to check the facts about THAT first. Alister McGrath and I both highlighted this irony already in our books on the New Atheism, which were among the first to come out, but our objections haven’t stopped the flood or even quelled it a little.
Lotharson: How do you personally see “faith”?
David Marshall: Christian faith means “Believing and acting upon what you have good reason to think is true, in the face of existential difficulties.”
Lotharson: It goes without saying it is a lot harder to argue against this than against the straw man they attack. Is it fair to say that the New Atheists PICK AND CHOOSE the worst and weakest examples of religious believers and describe them as if they were characteristic of religion AS A WHOLE?
David Marshall: Dawkins is famous for this. Like the Pharisee Jesus spoke about who seeks the world for a convert, he flies across continents looking for the kookiest Christians he can find – founders of hell houses, terrorist wannabees, semi-literate spokepersons for obscure political fronts — then reports them as typical cases of the species. For a zoologist, he’s empirically lazy to a remarkable degree.

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On Anti-theism and atrocities.

Lotharson: Lol. I think this should lead us to wonder whether HIS PARTICULAR brand of atheism is as harmless as he professes.

I don’t think that atheism (understood as the belief there is no supernatural world) has caused atrocities, in the same way I don’t believe that theism (the belief there is a God) has caused atrocities in and of itself.

BUT I do believe that anti-theism (the belief that all religions OUGHT to disappear) has plaid a major role in atrocities committed by secularist regimes in Russia and in China against religious people and clergy persons.

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Do you think it is a balanced consideration of the situation?
David Marshall:It’s a very complex question. I have a chapter giving my own analysis of “Why Marx went wrong” in Jesus and the Religions of Man. I think his rejection of Christianity and of God was very important, and it impacted his morals in complex ways — I argue that communists had THREE moral systems, for different sets of people. But I also argue that the most deadly facet of Marxism-Leninism was the god it worshiped — the self — even more than its rejection of God, perhaps. Though of course the two go together. As someone said of Tolstoy, I think, he and God in the same heart were like two bears in the same cave. Marx wanted the cave for himself, and so did his chief followers.
The best work on this subject is David Aikman’s Atheism in the Marxist Tradition. Unfortunately it is an unpublished doctoral dissertation, but can be obtained by interlibrary loan.
Lotharson: When I present anti-theism in this way, some of its proponents get completely infuriated.

They say that the New Atheism does not seek to destroy religious beliefs but only to put an end to “religious privileges”.

Could it be really the case?

David Marshall: Again, I fundamentally disagree with the assumed definition of “religion” here. But many New Atheists are quite outspoken in saying they want to rid the world of religion — though not violently, through “education” in various senses. I could give numerous quotes, especially if I were in my library in the US, rather than in central China, right now.

But no doubt many atheists hold more modest ambitions. They however tend not to identify themselves as Gnus (New Atheists).

 

John Loftus and The Outsider Test of Faith

Lotharson: Okay. What else is there to be said about the New Atheism?
David Marshall: I’m glad for the challenge. Anything they say that is true, is useful. I am presently writing a book entitled, “How Christianity passes the Outsider Test,” turning a popular Gnu argument — promoted by John Loftus — on its head, to offer four more or less new arguments for the Christian faith, some of which I think have a great deal of force. I’m so glad John brought the subject up again.

Besides which, we need our critics. Hug a New Atheist, but also figure out why he’s wrong and tell him. (Most Gnus are men, sorry.)
Lotharson: Before I’ll stop stealing away your precious time 🙂 could you please briefly explain what the Outsider Test of Faith is and what is your own personal take on it?
David Marshall: Oh, Gee, that’s the book! But you can get an abridged version in a chapter of True Reason.

The basic idea is, we should look at Christianity from an objective, outside perspective and stop being hoodwinked by our (assumed) Christian conditioning.

The truth — the real, “inside” story of Christianity — is amazing, and I don’t think has ever been told quite like this. To put it in the vernacular, I am totally pumped about this book.

Lotharson: Thanks for this and for everything David! I wish you all the best for your next endeavors and am looking forward to your new book.

 

 

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Predestined to eternally suffer? An interview with philosopher Jerry Walls

Note: text like this  means a hyper-link.

 

Calvinism (also known as reformed theology) is on the rise in the Conservative Protestant world and I am not the only one who finds that deeply preoccupying. In what follows, I had the immense privilege to interview Dr. Jerry Walls, who is an outstanding philosopher of religion defending a view called Arminianism.

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Lotharson: Thank you Jerry for having accepting my interview. Could you please sum up your personal background for my readers?
Jerry Walls: I was born and raised in Knockemstiff, a small village in southern Ohio. I attended a small revivalist church where I accepted Jesus as my savior in a revival when I was 11 years old. I preached my first sermon at age 13. After high school, I attended a Wesleyan Bible college for a couple years, where I seriously engaged Wesleyan theology. I graduated from Houghton College, also a Wesleyan school before attending Princeton theological seminary. I also took a degree from Yale divinity school and then pastored a church for three years. Then I went to Notre Dame where I did a PhD in philosophy, writing a dissertation defending the doctrine of hell. So I have a pretty diverse educational background.Bild
Lotharson: Yep! What version of hell did you defense back then?
Jerry Walls: I defended the view that hell is eternal because some people freely choose to remain there forever. I also pointed out that universalism and Calvinism share the assumption that God can save anyone he will. The difference is that for Calvinism, God does not choose to save everyone, whereas for the universalists he does. I argue that God truly desires to save all, but some are lost because we are free and some choose to reject God forever.

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Lotharson: Thanks, this is truly fascinating 🙂 Would you say that annihilationism (the destruction of the lost) is perpendicular to the debates between Calvinists and free-will Arminians such as yourself?

A calvinist and an Arminian can (possibly) be either an annhilationist or believe in eternal torment. Do you think this is the case?
Jerry Walls: Yes, those are views that can be combined. But either way, whether God determines people to eternal misery or (mere!) annihilation, either way the Calvinist God does not truly love all persons.

Lotharson: I agree with this! Why do you believe that your view of hell is the right one as opposed to other options? Could you please put it in a nutshell?
Jerry Walls: Well, God’s very nature is love and he created us in his image for relationships of love, both with himself and other persons. For us to truly love God, we have to be free. If God determined our “love” for himself, he would be loving himself rather than receiving genuine love from us. So for genuine love and worship to be possible, it must be possible that we can refuse to love God, to worship and obey him and so on. If that happens, we are necessarily unhappy for we are missing out on the very thing for which we were created–loving relationship with God and other persons. Hell is the natural misery that results when we choose not to love and obey God.

Lotharson: I largely agree with this though I think it begs some questions concerning eternal torment. But right now, I’d like to talk about reformed theology. What is, to your mind, the most concise way for summing up Calvinism?

Jerry Walls: Well, the famous TULIP, particular what I call “ULI in the middle.” God unconditionally chooses to save some, but not all, Christ died only for the elect that God unconditionally chooses to save, and God gives irresistible grace to the fortunate elect.
Jerry Walls: Particularly…

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Lotharson: And what about four-point Calvinists rejecting limited atonement?
Jerry Walls: That is only because it is rather embarrassing to admit you don’t really believe “God so loved the (whole) world” and gave his Son for all. But that is only a feeble attempt to mask the hard reality that the Calvinist God does not truly love all persons. So long as you have unconditional election and irresistible grace only for the elect, it does not help to play down limited atonement. You still have limited salvation. It is limited strictly to the elect God unconditionally chooses to save, but no one else.

Lotharson: Yeah, I also think that this distinction between single and double predestination is an illusion. What are now your main arguments against reformed theology?

Jerry Walls: Well, the heart of the issue is the character of God. Is he truly a God of love who is perfectly good? You cannot claim this with any plausibility if you believe God determines people to damnation, people he could just as easily determine to salvation. He could determine all persons FREELY to accept the Gospel (as Calvinists define freedom) but choose not to. God is more glorified by unconditionally choosing to save some and damning others than he would be by determining all to accept salvation. Such claims make shambles of the claim that God is love.
Jerry Walls: Calvinists are skillful at employing the rhetoric of love and most people do not really understand what Calvinists are saying. So Calvinism maintains credibility by way of misleading rhetoric about the love of God that their theology does not really support.

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Lotharson: Many Calvinists I told that answered me that God is a JUST judge. We are not free to chose good, but when we sin we are freely sinning, so that we deserve a punishment. What’s your take on this?
Jerry Walls: Freely only means doing “willingly” what God has determined you to do. He determines your will in such a way that you “willingly” choose sin. However, you cannot do otherwise. That flies in the face of how we understand justice. A person is considered culpable only for things over which he has control. And what would we think of a judge who determined a criminal to “willingly” murder someone and then sentenced him to death for murder? We would hardly think such a judge was just. Yet, that is just how Calvinists see God.

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Lotharson: Precisely. But then Calvinists say that we have NO RIGHT to judge God’s morality. He is the potter, we are the clay and we have to abide by HIS rules, however repugnant they might seem us to be. Do you often have heard such a reply in your own debates with Calvinists?
Jerry Walls: Well, that is a very compliacated question. Can God make anything right, just by willing it? Can he make lying right? Blasphemy? I believe whatever God wills is right, but I DO NOT think it follows that God can will just anything and make it right. He is necessarily good and loving in his nature, and can only will things that are compatible with his perfect goodness. So it is not a matter of us judging God by OUR standards, but rather that our moral intuitions are part of the image of God in us. To judge the Calvinist account of God to be morally abhorrent is not to judge God, but only the Calvinist account of him. For a fuller discussion of the relationship between God and morality, see the book David Baggett and I co-authored, “Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality” that was published in 2011.

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Lotharson: Thanks for the link! What I don’t understand is how Calvinists manage to live. They profess that God predetermined Hitler, the Shoah and predetermined most victims to eternally suffer. How is it possible to keep living without sinking into a dark depression?

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Jerry Walls: Great question! I think the answer again goes back to the inconsistency of Calvinism. They affirm the love of God for all persons, that he is perfectly good, and so on, but fail to see how these claims are utterly incompatible with their theology. They do not consistently work out the implications of determinism and compatibilism, and often think and say things that only make sense on a libertarian view of freedom. And of course, they often resort to “mystery” under the guise that it is true piety to believe things they do not understand or that do not make rational sense. But again, if people really understood compatibilism and the true implications of Calvinism, many could not believe it.
Many however, do sink into depression if they really understand Calvinism and its implications. I recently got an email from a guy who had been watching my videos and said he was moving to embrace Arminianism after being a Calvinist his whole life. He admitted the Calvinist view of God was at odds with the biblical picture of Jesus, and that he had little joy in his Christian life. The strain between what Calvinism teaches and what he truly believed was too great, and he finally realized he needed to give up Calvinism.

Lotharson: I am glad to hear about this happy ending 🙂

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Jeremiah 32:35 is extremely embarrassing for all divine determinists holding fast to Biblical inerrancy.
“35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”
How do Calvinists interpret this passage?

Jerry Walls: I’m not sure, but this may be good candidate for the infamous distinction between the revealed and the decretive will of God. He reveals one thing to be his will, and commands it, but decrees something altogther different! Talk about internal conflict!

Lotharson: If a human being spoke and acted in this way, would we not universally call him or her an infamous deceiver?
Jerry Walls: Or worse. For the Calvinist, God’s ways that are “higher” than ours are actually lower than the standards we expect for a decent human being.

Lotharson: Yeah, and this is truly frightening. Is Neo-Calvinism on the rise in modern Evangelicalism?
Jerry Walls: Well, if you mean by Neo-Calvinism, just classic Calvinism, then yes, very much so.
Lotharson: Are there countless Arminian Churches who are being taken over?

Jerry Walls: I’m not sure of the number, but yes, some Arminian churches are being taken over by Calvinists.
Lotharson: Does it have regrettable consequences, especially in the way non-Christians view the Church?
Jerry Walls: I doubt that non-Christians know the difference. But it does cause conflict and division in some churches.
Jerry Walls: And again, Calvinists are not usually forthright in their views to unbelievers. Calvinists often say God loves everyone.

Lotharson: Is it morally praiseworthy to worship a deity having condemned one’s own son to an eternity of suffering BEFORE he was ever born? (I’m thinking on John Piper)

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Jerry Walls: The idea of unconditional election to salvation and damnation is morally abhorrent, and applying it to your own children only makes it more graphic. But that is Calvinist piety at its best. You sacrifice not only your child but also your moral intuitions in the name of worshiping a God whose “goodness” is utterly at odds with the normal meaning of that term.

Lotharson: I wholeheartedly agree with you! But it seems to me that Conservative Arminians have also many troubles.
For (the overwhelming majority of) Conservative Evangelical Arminians, if a non-Christian goes onto the other side of the grave, he can AUTOMATICALLY count on an eternity of terrifying distress. Do you agree with this?

Jerry Walls: I believe God’s mercy endures forever and his nature of perfect love does not change the minute we die. I agree with CS Lewis that the doors of hell are locked on the inside and that God is always willing to welcome the prodigal home.

Lotharson: So, do you expect post-mortem conversions?
Jerry Walls: Yes. I believe God truly desires to save all persons, and that many persons have not had a full opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel in this life. You do not go to hell for lack of opportunity to be saved, but for steadfastly resisting the opportunity to do so. If this is true, it makes sense that persons who have not had opportunity to receive the gospel in this life will do so after death.

Could you put your views on purgatory in a nutshell and mention useful resources?

Jerry Walls: Well, in a nutshell, purgatory is about completing the sanctification process begun in this life. For a full defense of this claim, see my book “Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation.” For a shorter account see my article “Purgatory for Everyone” that appeared in “First Things” several years ago. I also have a couple of videos on You Tube. One is CS Lewis on Why our Souls Demand Purgatory and the other is CS Lewis and Mere Purgatory. Thanks for the interview.

Lotharson: I was delighted to have had you!

 

Ăśber die Inspiration der Bibel und anderer BĂĽcher

English version: On the Inspiration of the Bible and other Books. Feel free to comment there at any time!

Fundamentalisten und generell Evangelikalen glauben, dass wenn Gott existiert und an menschlichen Angelegenheiten interessiert ist, Er uns eine irrtumslose Bibel geben wĂĽrde, wo Seine Natur auf eine eindeutige und vertrauenswĂĽrdige Weise offenbart ist.

Wir leben in einem sehr unsicheren Zeitalter und ich bin mir wohl bewusst, dass ein solcher Glaube eine groĂźe Bequemlichkeit nicht wenigen Menschen bringen kann, die das GefĂĽhl haben, einen unerschĂĽtterlichen Anker gefunden zu haben.

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Aber wenn kluge und intellektuell ehrliche Menschen mit unverkennbaren biblischen Widersprüchen und vor allem Stellen konfrontiert werden, wo Gott als ein hässliches Monster dargestellt wird, werden sie am häufigsten das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten und nachtragende Gegner des Christentums werden.

Solche Bekehrungen zum Antitheismus stammen oft aus der binären Weise, auf welche ihr Gehirn programmiert worden sind, den biblischen Kanon zu berücksichtigen: wie ein junger Pastor es mir vor kurzer Zeit gesagt hat: wenn man anfängt, die Wahrheiten von Details im Alten Testament zu bezweifeln, wäre alles in Frage gestellt; sodass es unmöglich wäre, an die Auferstehung von Jesus zu glauben.

Es gelingt ihnen nicht, die Möglichkeit zu betrachten, dass es andere Weisen gibt, die Bibel zu lesen, zu verstehen und zu berücksichtigen.

Ich persönlich lese die im biblischen Kanon hereingenommenen Bücher auf dieselbe Weise, wie ich Bücher aus christlichen Autoren zwischen 300 nach Christus und der heutigen Zeit lese, das heißt als die Beschreibung von menschlichen Erfahrungen und Gedanken über Gott.

Wenn ich die Zeugnisse von anderen Christen lese, werde ich bestimmt denken, dass sie fehlbare menschliche Wörter über Gott schreiben, aber ich bin dennoch ganz offen dafür, dass sie profunde Einsichten über Gott und die Art und Weise bekommen haben, wie man sein Leben führen sollte.
Ich bin auch völlig offen dafür, dass Gott Wunder bewirkt hat und dass sie feindlichen geistlichen Wesen begegnet sind.

Und wie ich mit dem Beispiel des Lebens von Martin Luther erklärt habe, sogar wenn Leute entsetzliche Sachen tun und falsche (und sogar lästerliche) Dinge über Gott lehren, habe ich kein Problem damit, an die Realität mancher ihrer Erfahrungen mit Ihm zu glauben.

Um ein konkretes Beispiel zu nehmen, lese ich die Bücher von Paulus auf dieselbe Weise, wie ich die von C.S. Lewis lese: ich glaube dass beide vorbildhafte Christen, große Verteidiger des Glaubens und außergewöhnliche Männer waren, und die Existenz von logischen, empirischen und theologischen Fehlern in ihren Schriften verhindert mich keineswegs daran, all die richtigen Sachen wert zu schätzen, die sie herausgefunden haben.

Aber wenn wir nicht glauben, dass die sich im biblischen Kanon befindenden Bücher inspirierter als andere Bücher sind, wie können wir den Unterschied zwischen richtigen und falschen Aussagen über Gott machen?

Während ich nicht für alle progressive Christen sprechen kann, glaube ich, dass wir unsere Theologie auf der Tatsache basieren müssen, dass Gott perfekt sein muss, um überhaupt Gott zu sein.
Sogar wenn Menschen fehlbare Geschöpfe sind, sind sie gut im Stande, die Vollkommenheit zu erkennen und herauszufinden, was moralisch richtig und falsch ist, wie Paulus es in den ersten Kapiteln des Briefs zu den Römern erklärt hat.

Wie ich in einer zukĂĽnftigen Post nahe legen werde glaubte und lehrte eigentlich Paulus (oder zumindest der Schreiber der Apostelgeschichte), dass ĂĽber Zeus nachdenkende heidnische Autoren viele Sachen ĂĽber Gott begreifen und herausfinden konnten.

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Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

Das Trilemma vom C.S. Lewis

English version: the trilemma of C.S. Lewis.  Comments are welcome there at any time!

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C.S Lewis war zweifelsohne der größte christliche Apologet des letzten Jahrhunderts. Obwohl die Tragweite einiger seiner Ideen bestimmt übertrieben wurde, glaube ich wirklich, dass man wahrheitsgemäß von ihm sagen kann, dass er eine rationale Art von Christentum verteidigt hat, die weder das Intellekt noch Emotionen vernachlässigt.

Einer seiner berĂĽhmtesten Argumente war das sogenannte Trilemna ĂĽber die Person von Jesus von Nazareth.

Unter der Voraussetzung der Zuverlässigkeit der Berichte über Jesus Behauptungen, Gott zu sein, ist es irrational, Jesus nur als einen weisen Lehrer unter vielen zu betrachten. Nein, gemäß der Sachen, die er über sich selber gesagt hat, könnte er nur der Herr von allen Dingen, ein Lügner oder ein Wahnsinniger sein.

Während manche Feinde des christlichen Glaubens keinerlei Problem mit den zwei letzten Möglichkeiten haben, haben die meisten Skeptiker versucht, das gesamte Argument als ein falsches Trilemma zu verwerfen: Jesus könnte sehr wohl ein großer Mann sein, der nur bezüglich seiner Göttlichkeit unrecht hatte.

Obwohl diese Antwort für mich einige intuitive Plausibilität besitzt, denke ich nicht länger, dass sie gültig ist.

Zur Jesus Zeit sahen Juden Gott als den Schöpfer des Himmels und der Erde an, der radikal anders und seiner gesamten Schöpfung extrem überlegen ist. Nach einer langen und allmählichen Entwicklung während der Zeit des alten Testaments betrachteten sie schließlich Gott als das ultimative Wesen, das verantwortlich für die wundervollen Eigenschaften der von ihnen beobachteten Natur war.

Es ist wahr, dass im Laufe der Geschichte nicht wenige religiöse große Menschen (moralisch) einzigartig waren, sogar wenn sie glaubten, mit nachweislich abwesenden übernatürlichen Kräften ausgerüstet zu sein, und es bedeutet keineswegs, dass sie geistesgestört oder unehrlich waren.

Aber es heiĂźt noch lange nicht, zu behaupten, das fĂĽr die Existenz von allem verantwortliche Wesen zu sein.

Stellen Sie sich vor, Sie würden über die folgenden Wochen bemerken, dass Sie anfangen, den Gedanken immer ernster zu nehmen, dass Sie der Schöpfer der gesamten Wirklichkeit sind, die dennoch real und kein Traum ist.

Wäre es keine gesunde Reaktion, sofort zur psychiatrischen Abteilung des nächsten Krankenhauses zu gehen?

ImageSo glaube ich, dass es trotz all der Herausforderungen, die seit der Zeit von C.S: Lewis formuliert wurden, keine ĂĽberzeugende Antwort gegeben hat.

Selbstverständlich beruht dies auf der Historizität der göttlichen Behauptungen von Jesus. In zukünftigen Posten werde ich auf die Frage eingehen, ob man daran glauben kann oder sogar soll.

 

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Eric Seibert iwer biblische Atrozitäte

English version

Lorraine Franconian / Lothringisch

De progressive Evangelikale Theolog Randal Rauser hat de Bibelwessenschaftler Eric Seibert iwer de Thema der Gewalt in de Bibel interviewed.

Eric Seibert

Er hat gonz gut gezeigt, dass de gewähnliche Strategie von konservativen Evagelikalen (wie de Paul Copan oder de William Lane Craig) total doron scheitern, ze beweise, dass de Gott, de sie onbete, keen moralische Monschter isch (oder nit unner een zersplitterte Gehirn leidet).

Dennoch hon ich nit siene pacifistische Iwerzeugunge. Ich glawe on de Theorie des gerechten Kriegs on in de gerechte Strofe von iwlen Taten.

So es isch nit de Präsenz von Gewalt in de Bibel, de mich schockiert sondern Atrozitäte, die gegen Unschuldige begange worde sin, wie Kanaanitische Babies oder Säuglinge, oder een Gesetz, de beso hat, dass eeni vergewaltigti Frau, die nit gewagt hat, ze schrie, als Ehebrecherin besteenigt were soll.

Ich denke echt, dass es vellig unmächlich isch, solche Arte von Gesetzte als gottgewollt ze verteidige.

Nun wirft es viele Froje uf iwer de Inspiration der Schriften. Wenn mir wesse, dass es gonz klar Teele gibt, de  gegen Gottes Wille sin, wie kinn ma oneri Teele vertraue?

Ich glawe, dass en Paradigmenwechsel notwendig isch.

Evangelikale sollte ufhere, de Bibel als immer inspirierter als oneri christliche un jüdische Bicher onzesin, wie ich friher schon amol erklärt hon.

Solch een Verännerung impliziert nit unusweichlich, de theologische Liberalismus un Antisupernaturalismus ze akzeptiere.

Wie ich geschriew hon:

Um ein konkretes Beispiel zu nehmen, lese ich die Bücher von Paulus auf dieselbe Weise, wie ich die von C.S. Lewis lese: ich glaube dass beide vorbildhafte Christen, große Verteidiger des Glaubens und außergewöhnliche Männer waren, und die Existenz von logischen, empirischen und theologischen Fehlern in ihren Schriften verhindert mich keineswegs daran, all die richtigen Sachen wertzuschätzen, die sie herausgefunden haben.

Aber wenn wir nicht glauben, dass die sich im biblischen Kanon befindenden Bücher inspirierter als andere Bücher sind, wie können wir den Unterschied zwischen richtigen und falschen Aussagen über Gott machen?

Während ich nicht für alle progressive Christen sprechen kann, glaube ich, dass wir unsere Theologie auf der Tatsache basieren müssen, dass Gott perfekt sein muss, um überhaupt Gott zu sein.
Sogar wenn Menschen fehlbare Geschöpfe sind, sind sie völlig im Stande, die Vollkommenheit zu erkennen und herauszufinden, was moralisch richtig und falsch ist, wie Paulus es in den ersten Kapiteln des Briefs zu den Römern erklärt hat.

Sogar wenn de Bicher von C.S. Lewis nit ohne Fehler sin, sin de meeschte Christe eenverston, dass er een auĂźerordentliche Mann Gottes gewese isch, viele echte geeschtliche Erfahrunge gehon hat un profunde Einsichte in Gottes Natur erreicht hat.

Awer Gott hat nit direkt durch ihn gesproche, er hat siene eigene kulturbedingte Konzepte verwendet, um iwer de Allmächtige ze schriewe, un zwangsläufig hat er sich aach monchmol geirrt.

Ich sehe de Apostel Paulus un oneri biblischi Schriewer on uf de selbe Weise: wie moderne christliche Autore hon sie echte Erfahrunge mit Gott gehabt un sich Gedanke iwer Ihn gemacht, die sie niedergeschriew hon.

Natürlich eliminiert eeni solchi Herangehensweise nit alle Schwierigkäite.

Denn warum hon Mensche, die behauptet hon, gläubig ze sin, Atrozitäte begange, die sie theologisch begrünet hon?

Konservative Protestante (aach ehemalige) konzentriere sich uf de Problem von de Atrozitäte in de Alte Testament, awer es isch nur een Teel von een generellere Schwierigkäit, nämlich de Problem von de göttliche Verborgenheit.

Christliche Conquistadoren, die de Massaker von de Indianern als Gottes Wille interpretiert hon oder isolierte Stämme, die routinemässig ihre Kinner ihre Gotte geopfert hon, sin aach gonz problematisch.

Denn in all diese Situatione hat Gott erlauwt, dass zahllose Mensche schädliche un möderische Glawe iwer Ihn gehon hon.

Während ich nit een solch breite Problem mit wenige Zeile löse kinn, glawe ich, dass Gott fähig isch, de Leid von de Opfer von religiöse Gewalt erlöse kinn, die sich fir een ewigliche Glick mit Ihm entschiede hon.

Ich wess wohl, dass es de Problem nit löst, awer ich glawe, dass es es viel lindert.

 

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Eric Seibert on Biblical atrocities

Lothringische Version: Eric Seibert iwer Biblische atrozitäte.

Unjust violence and misogyny in the  old testament

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser interviewed Biblical Scholar Eric Seibert on the topic of violence in the Bible.

Eric Seibert

He did an excellent job showing why the usual strategies of Conservative Evangelicals such as Paul Copan and William Lane Craig completely fail to show that the god they worship is not a moral monster (or does not suffer under a split-brain disorder).

I don’t, however, share his pacifist convictions. I believe in Just War Theory and in the righteous retribution of wicked deeds.
So it is not the presence of violence within the Bible which shocks me but atrocities committed against innocents, such as Canaanite babies or toddlers, or a law stipulating that a raped woman having not dared scream should be stoned as a adulteress.

I think there is just no way one can defend such kinds of laws as stemming from God.

Now this raises lots of question concerning the inspiration of Scripture. If we know there are clearly parts of it which contradict God’s will, how can we trust the others?

I think that a paradigm shift is clearly necessary.

Evangelicals should stop seeing the Bible as being necessarily more inspired than other Christian and Jewish books, as I explained in a prior post a long time ago.

Such a change does not, however, inevitably implies embracing theological liberalism and anti-supernaturalism.

To take a concrete example, I read the books of the apostle Paul in the same way  I read books from C.S. Lewis: I believe that both were examplary Christians, great defenders of the faith and extraordinary men, and the presence of logical, empirical and theological errors in their writings does not prevent me at all to appreciate all the right things they figured out.

But if we don’t believe that the books within the Biblical Canon are more inspired than books outside it, how can we make the difference between right and wrong beliefs about God?

While I cannot speak for all progressive Christians, I believe that we should base our theology on the fact that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God. Even tough human beings are faillible creatures they are quite able to recognize perfection and to find out what is morally right and wrong as Saint Paul explains in the first chapters of the letter to the Romans.

Even if the books of C.S. Lewis are not inerrant, most Christians agree he was an extraordinary man of God, had many genuine spiritual experiences and reached profound insights in God’s nature.

But God did not directly speak through him, he used his own culturally-conditioned concepts to write about the Almighty, which involves he also got God wrong at times.

I view the Apostle Paul and other Biblical writers in exactly the same way: like modern Christian writers, they had genuine experiences with and thoughts about God they wrote down.

Of course such an approach does not eliminate all difficulties.

For why did people pretending to be believers commit atrocities they justified theologically? Conservative Protestants (and former ones) focus on the problem of atrocities in the Old Testament, but this is only one part of a more general difficulty: the problem of divine hideness.

Christian conquistadors viewing the slaughter of native Indians as the divine Will or isolated tribes routinely sacrificing their children to their deities are troubling as well.
For in all these situations, God allowed countless humans to have noxious and murderous false beliefs about Him.

While I cannot address such a huge problem with a few lines, I believe that God is able to redeem the suffering of all the victims of religious violence who just have to choose Him for an everlasting bliss.

Whilst this does not solve the problem, I find that this largely mitigates it.

Tribalism, love and God’s shameless ploy: a response to Cyngus and Valdobiade

A fellow called “Cyngus“ took me to task for having pointing out that influential evolutionary psychologists like Joshua Greene think, from an atheistic standpoint, that any objective morality is an illusion.

His response was very emotional and confused and I reproduced it here:

“Dear Lothar,

Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape. Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.

God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God. Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.

Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.

Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe. You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

Since the whole comment reeks of rudeness, lack of respect and incoherence in thinking, I wanted to utterly ignore it.

But then another blogger called „Valdobiade„ came along and urged me to write a response, saying that:

„I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.

Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them. However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.

„

There are many things I could go into here.

„Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape.“

This is only one part of the story. Whilst it is clear that the inner demands of morality are stronger within our own tribe or in-group, we also dispose of a strong sense of empathy wich allows us to feel and understand the pain of all other human beings or for that matter sentient animals.

Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.“

Here Cyngus speaks like of a fundamentalist of THE whole Bible where God is consistently portrayed as a tribal deity and an evil monster.

But that’s demonstrably false. I view the Bible as a collection of human thoughts about God reflecting the worldview, fears and hopes of people at that time and I see there contradictory views on God’s morality, tribalism, exclusivism, forgiveness, sin and so on and so forth, as well documented by Thom Stark in his book „The Human Faces of God“.

Seeing the Old Testament as a consistent book containing only evil things is exactly the way Nazi theologians interpreted it during the Third Reich.

.

„God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God.“

This emotional outburst is certainly very efficient rhetorically, but rationally I fear it rings rather hollow. Actually, it’s even hard to understand what the argument is supposed to be.

“ When God teaches us to love our enemies, it is a shameless ploy so that he will impose His dictatorship upon all of us.“

Really? Would he need to teach us love in order to become our absolute tyrant? Is it not a much more likely explanation that Jesus was moved by genuine compassion transcending tribalism as he taught that?

At the very least Cyngus and his fellow antitheists have the burden of proof to show why Jesus was being manipulative as he uttered such statements.

„Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.“

I completely reject hell as being a place of eternal suffering.

That said, I believe that God created us as free beings and that he won’t force anyone to get to heaven if she does not truly desires Him and even believes that live is more meaningful if it is limited in time.

„Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.“

Given my conception of hell, I don’t feel threatened at all by this new outburst.

„Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe.“

I view the Bible as a collection of religious texts, similar in its nature to books from many religious traditions. I analyse it critically and see both truths and errors within its pages and I quote it in the same way I quote Christian authors such as C.S Lewis or John Wesley or even Muslim authors.

Cyngus has just written an unproven assertion about my person.

Since he knows almost nothing about me, this leads to the strong suscpicion I think of himeself as possesing some extra-sensory perceptions (I should probably contact the CSICOP to investigate his case.)

„You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

I agree there are many religious persons who do that and I constantly criticize them on my blog for that sin. I will quote C.S. Lewis here:

„The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible. „

Frankly speaking there are quite a few atheists I love to read and feel challenged by, but Cyngus and all bullying village antitheists don’t belong to them.

Now back to „ Valdobiade“

„„I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.“

Actually almost all modern Christian denominations agree that you not only have to love (in an intutively human sense) the people in other Christian groups but in non-Christian movements as well.

„Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them.“

No, as mentioned above you will find both conflicting trends within the pages of the OT, and of other Near-Eastern religious texts, or about Zeus in the Greek mythology for that matter.

„However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.“

https://i2.wp.com/patrickwanis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/Why-people-reject-love1-199x300.jpg

I don’t want to give the impression this is an easy question for any Christian. According to my view, hell is not a place of eternal torment but the utter disappearance of persons not desiring to live eternally with God. God does want them to be saved, but if they refuse He is not going to violate their will. God’s Love always respects the decision of its object but wishes to offer him or her eternal bliss.

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