Naked Calvinism: presuppositionalism

Most Calvinists keep saying that people are generally totally closed to God’s invitation to believe in the Gospel owing to their alleged utter depravity.

As a consequence they keep saying that an evidential approach (providing people with arguments for the faith) is doomed to fail because unregenerate humans are too wicked to be receptive.

As a consequence they adopt a presuppositionalist methodology which consists in showing that all wordviews other than “Biblical Christianity” (and by that they really mean Calvinism) are incoherent.

A non-Calvinist fundamentalist offered a response which is really worth being read.

The lack of common ground between Calvinist apologists and non-Calvinists is undoubtedly real. However it is not caused by the total depravity of their opponents but by the willingness of reformed folks themselves to endorse doctrines that no decent, sensible and sensitive person can possibly accept, like God predetermining a person before her birth to become wicked while condemning her to eternal torment at the end of her life as a punishment.

This also underscores the real danger posed by a Calvinist theocracy: if you are willing to buy this, it is really a small step to introduce torture or execution against heretics (which inflict, after all, only a finite amount of suffering) as Calvin himself did with Michael Servetus.

Calvin executing Servetus?

It is no coincidence that the large majority of Islamic movements confess a believe in divine determinism very similar to reformed theology.

Important presuppositionalist.

Cornelius Van Till, Gordon Clark and James White


Is John Loftus a consistent biological robot? Can he avoid redefinitions?

Alex from the website http://www.skeptiko.com

Image

dealing with paranormal topics interviewed the militant atheist John Loftus.

Image

I am going to offer my random thoughts as the dialog went forward.

John is a former conservative Christian who has been emotionally abused by Christian fundamentalism which taught him he had to worship an evil God along with an inerrant Bible.

He became a resentful atheist and now seek to destroy the whole Christendom at all costs.

The topic of the interview was the so-called Outsider Test of Faith (OTF) which aims at pushing Christians to evaluate their religion in the same they critically considered other religions.

As a progressive Christian, I completely agree with that!
Actually, when conservative Evangelicals from the website “AnsweringMuslims.com” point out that the Koran is false because it includes immoral stuff, I evoke worse atrocities in the Bible and tell them with love that they ought to treat Muslims as they themselves would like to be treated by Antitheists. Alas I have never gotten any kind of response from them.

I believe that the Biblical Canon is not MORE inspired than book outside the Canon and when discussing with fundamentalists, I often get answers from folks wanting to prove the Bible by assuming (without any reason) that other parts of the Bible is true.

So progressive Christian do the same experience as non-Christians when dealing with fundamentalists trying to prove their very specific worldview.

That said I believe a valid OTF should mean we are agnostic about every worldview for avoiding biases. I am not sure this is possible to do that while still being able to consider evidence and thinking logically.

Alex agrees with John that Christianity ought to be debunked and dismissed some Christian miracles such as the virgin birth and the empty tomb as nonsensical.
For someone open to the serious investigation of anomalous data, this is strange, to say the least. The empty tomb is a well attested fact accepted by most critical scholars. It is its explanation which is uncertain and heavily depends on worldview commitments.

Alex did not contest any of John’s argument against Christianity (and most of them are actually aimed at Conservative Evangelical Christianity and are very weak against other forms of Christianity) but focused on the problem of materialism and biological determinism.

This is certainly the weakest point in John’s worldview and one he is not well equipped to deal with, since his specialization is in theology, anti-theology, and a bit of philosophical theology.

He was humble enough to recognize this and referred to other naturalism defenders such as Victor Stenger and Keith Pearson. Exposing some fallacies of these authors will be the topic of future posts here…

Alex is a non-Christian theist strongly rejecting materialism and wanting John to defend his own worldview, namely Reductive Materialism (RM) to an outsider like himself.

John is misleading as he said that atheism makes no positive claim at all. This is even worse for Reductive Materialism (RM).

Saying that everything which is real is IDENTICAL to material processes is clearly a positive claim, which not only (given the existence of countless unknown parallel worlds) cannot be reasonably proven but is also probably inconsistent.

John agreed that in one million years (let alone in one trillion years) nothing humans can do matters.

But he emphasized that his actions and his love matter now.

But is John really capable to love, act morally, combat injustices if he thinks at the same time that his love is IDENTICAL to a bunch of molecules, atoms and more elementary particles moving within his brain?

Is that compatible with the way humans over the centuries in the entire world have felt about love?

Would it be not more honest for John to accept the fact that love is an illusion, just a bunch of physical processes leading a self-reproducing chemical system to produce offspring?

John is persuaded that an objective morality exists, and that many stuff described in the Old Testament are wrong (and I partially agree with him about that).

But if everything which is real is identical to particles, and the proposition “Genocide is always wrong” is real, then to what neutrons, atoms, molecules, currents is it IDENTICAL to?

The overwhelming majority of humans would find it absurd to reduce the moral wrongness of an atrocity to a bunch of particles without completely redefining the word.

And when John speaks of making a choice, he is just expressing the fact that his brain molecules are going to push his body to act in a certain way, according to purely physical causes which can be traced back ultimately to the big-bang.

Is that not a striking redefinition of a “free choice”?  How can it be freer than a choice predetermined by God?

John rightly pointed out that fundamentalist and many conservative Christians have a harmful influence on them and others and ought to lose their faith.

I agree and interact a lot with such folks as a blogger. But why should progressive Christians like myself worshiping a God who is perfectly good and loving and rejecting any kind of human dogmas (both outside and inside the Bible) give up their faiths?

And anyone taking a look at my blog, at those of Randal Rauser, James McGrath, the Naked Pastor, Rachel Held Evans, Kimberly Knight and many others won’t fail to see that the antitheistic meme (Liberals and Progressives legitimize fundamentalism) is completely wrong.  We constantly oppose fundamentalism.

John thinks apparently that deism and the belief we live in a very complex computer simulation are not irrational. Great, but if that’s the case, he should view himself as an agnostic rejecting traditional religions.

Considering this whole debate, I regret that Alex did not show slightly more respect to John who was very polite. But I understand it is very hard not getting emotionally involved during such discussions  and I am unfortunately no exception.

I don’t agree with Alex’s final claim that science shows us that consciousness survives death. While sometimes very intriguing, the results of parapsychology and NDE researches are far from being conclusive.

I am much more convinced by philosophical arguments showing that consciousness is not the same thing as material processes studied by science.

Now I am looking forward to receive critical and approving comments!

 

 

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

On Luther, Hitler and Religious Confusion

Deutsche Version

Richard Weikart created quite a stir after he published his book „From Darwin to Hitler“ where he argued that the Darwinian concept of natural selection played an important role in the national socialist ideology.

In the raging north American culture war, this gave rise to countless heated debates, with people saying at one extreme that Nazism was a natural consequence of Darwin’s ideas and other people asserting that Nazis rejected Darwinism and were heatens or even Christians.

I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, but this will be the subject of a future article.

The (alleged) Darwinian origins of the Holocaust gives quite a few conservative Evangelicals the feeling that they’re in the right camp, and that the godless liberals they’re opposing will bring the word to oblivion.

However, they very seldom take a closer look at the role the founder of Protestantism played in the developement of antisemitism.

At the time of Luther, the Roman Catholic Church had really an abusive theology in many respects, and Luther thought he had to work very hard to earn his salvation.

I believe that his experience of unconditional grace and divine love was a genuine one, but this also led him to believe in the doctrine of predetermination (Vorherbestimmung), that God chose certain people to believe in Him and get saved while predetermining the others to head to hell.

Luther tried to convert the Jews and became increasingly frustrated all his efforts were apparently vain.

This leads to a real hatred which is summed up in his infamous book „On the Jews and their Lies.“

Here I’ve copied the good English summary of the seven laws he wanted to introduce in Germany and perhaps even elsewhere:

    1. for Jewish synagogues and schools to be burned to the ground, and the remnants buried out of sight;
    2. for houses owned by Jews to be likewise razed, and the owners made to live in agricultural outbuildings;
    3. for their religious writings to be taken away;
    4. for rabbis to be forbidden to preach, and to be executed if they do;
    5. for safe conduct on the roads to be abolished for Jews;
    6. for usury to be prohibited, and for all silver and gold to be removed and “put aside for safekeeping”;
    7.  for the Jewish population to be put to work as agricultural slave laborers.[4]

In 1923 Hitler praised Luther for his ideas, and called him the greatest German mind, who “saw the Jew as we today are starting to see him.”

Such writings reveals us quite a bit about Luther’s heart. It is impossible to explain this away by just saying he was a „man of his time“. The Anabaptist utterly rejected violence, and as they underwent gruesome persecutions they most often reacted with love. And more than one thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul was also frustrated not to have converted his fellow Jews  but instead of cursing them, he prayed to God he would be damned so that they would be saved!

Can we conclude that Luther wasn’t probably a man of God, that his experiences and faith were fake?

I don’t think so. It is true that the main aspect of the reformation „Sola Scriptura“ doesn’t seem to be coherent. God only speaks authoratively through Scripture, except the day the early Church decided which books belong to the Canon and which not.
The doctrine of many progressive Roman Catholics that God speaks to us through the tradition of believers over the centuries, and the Bible itself is such a tradition, is at the very least self-consistent.

But I do think that during this period in history, a great part of the Church had an abusive theology leading people to earn or even buy their salvation. I believe that after his desperate realization he was not up to the task, Luther really experienced the grace and love of God.

But he freely chose to let hatred and darkness dominate other parts of his heart. His teaching that God predetermined certain persons to be hell-bound was certainly one area where his thoughts were completely darkened.

But this raises a problem: why does God allow people to get things right about him while also believing blasphemous non-senses?

I often encounter the same problem in the Bible, with the book of the Psalms where the goodness and bounty of God are praised in a wonderful way, but where psalmists also prayed God to crush the head of their enemy’s children against rocks.

And I see the same problem in my life: sometimes I am overwhelmed by the love of God which I try to pour on my fellow humans, but I am also still driven by my selfishness and deep-seated fears.

I believe that God took an enormous risk by granting us freedom, and that a total revelation of Himself would considerably reduce this liberty.

I do believe that God is completely  able to compensate for the evil caused by this in the world to come.

 

 

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)