Hard Pills of Atheism

I recently wrote an article targeted at committed atheists who claim that Christians carry all the burden of proof. There, I pointed out that atheism is not a neutral position and is justified only if it, too, can provide answers for the hard questions of science and human experience. In this article, though, I’d like to offer something similar only targeted to the agnostic, who flirts with the idea that this universe may be devoid of a God after all. My intent is to get such persons to consider the impact that true atheism would logically have on their beliefs and values, and to consider whether this package deal sounds more reasonable than theism.

Read the rest of this entry

Atheism and the Problem of Morality

I posed this question on Facebook recently to stir a moral discussion with my progressive friends:

“If something is considered unjust but violates no current law, then where does that law exist which it violates?”

An agnostic friend, and even a Christian friend whom I suspect to be a theological liberal, chimed in to argue for a secular basis for morality. For instance, that we can be good without God, right and wrong are just self-evident, and humans have been making progress toward a more perfect society. My intent was to raise the “grounding problem” for objective morality if there is no source to appeal to other than our own human imaginations. My agnostic friend attempted to beg off of the issue by claiming that he just didn’t have the “philosophical chops” for it. Below is what I offered in an attempt to explain the nature of the problem from his preferred secular point of view.

Read the rest of this entry

Born in the Wrong Body

The transgender movement is predicated upon the idea that one can be born in the wrong body. Many even use this exact language when describing themselves. This is a remarkable—even metaphysical—claim, which raises some interesting questions I’d like to offer.

Read the rest of this entry

Are There Many Paths to God? Yes and No.

I have friends who regularly post spiritual platitudes on social media. Usually I just scroll on past, but variations on this particular theme are sometimes offered and are hard not to respond to given its obvious flaws, the stakes at issue, and its dig at those like me who believe in the idea of a real and specific God.

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. Don’t waste time running around the mountain telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

This statement could, perhaps, be meant to refer to various things, but most commonly what is meant by the “mountain” is “God.” This is the context in which I will critique the thought, and a more explicit way it is sometimes stated is that “all paths lead to God.”

Read the rest of this entry

Atheism’s Burden of Proof

I was recently in a Twitter exchange with an atheist discussing his views on morality. When I suggested that moral relativism was logically required by atheism, as many atheist philosophers have been willing to concede, he offered this extremely common statement:

“The only thing logically required by atheism is lack of belief in god claims.”

Atheists regularly characterize their position as nothing more than the rejection of God(s) and the supernatural, which they hold to be unproven beliefs. They then present their atheism as the reasonable, default position for which no burden of proof is necessary. This puts the Christian apologist on the defensive, and given the robust case for theism it is easy to take the bait. However, it’s not necessary to irrefutably prove theism (often according to questionable criteria for “proof”) in order to defeat non-theism.

Read the rest of this entry

Is Our Sun an “Average Star”?

“we are just an advanced breed of primates on a minor planet, orbiting around a very average star, in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies” — Stephen Hawking

The claim that our sun is but an “average star” is so common as to seem beyond question. However, supporting that claim requires much over-generalization and a very selective treatment of all the criteria we might use to quantify averages. It also neglects those properties which are most important for any star that would be suitable for complex life. Calling our sun an “average star” seems more of an ideological statement than a scientific observation, and is often offered in precisely that context.

Read the rest of this entry

Why I Prefer Debating Atheists vs Generally ‘Spiritual’ People

When debating matters of religion, I find myself, curiously, more comfortable interacting with atheists than I am with people of a generally “spiritual” disposition. One purely subjective reason is that I used to be one of those “spiritual” types, and it’s easy to transfer my anger at the foolishness of my former self onto other people who I see making the same mistakes. Beyond that, there are a number of differences between the two types that make the experience of dialoguing with atheists unique. Perhaps my observations might be helpful for others who have an opportunity to dialog with either of the two groups.

First, some clarifications and definitions. For the sake of this article, the term “atheist” will simply mean a person who has a high degree of confidence in the idea that God does not exist, or is at least willing to take that position in a debate with you. A “spiritual” person is harder to quantify, but may be a theologically liberal Christian, Wiccan, neo-pagan, member of a fringe cult, or a hobbyist of one of the eastern religions. They typically say things such as “I don’t like organized religion” and “all paths lead to God.” They often call God “she” or “The Universe” or some kind of divine force, and are friendly to ideas like reincarnation, occultism, and eastern religious practices. I will use the term “spiritualist” to refer to this broad group.

Second, I’m not suggesting there are only two groups. Not specifically included here are those who are solidly entrenched in one of the major non-Christian religions. For instance, a Muslim can be an entirely different breed of debating partner and can take an approach that is similar in ways to that of a Christian. However, it’s a different thing to be committed to the unique truth and fundamental doctrines of a religion versus simply being partial to that religion or just raised in its traditions. There are liberals in both Christianity and the other religions, and those tend to fall into my “spiritual” camp.

Read the rest of this entry

How We Know That Sex is Sacred

Our secular culture has worked very hard to sell us on the idea that there is no particular design or purpose to sexual relationships, consequently, sex may be enjoyed at the discretion of the individual. The only constraints are that it be “responsible” and “safe,” and that the participants are “ready,” “willing,” and “consenting.” Any teleological consideration of its design, such as between a man and woman, or its context, such as in the formal bonds of marriage, have come to be viewed as mere outmoded social conventions. And what Scripture has to say on this matter is of no consequence to the pagan mind (and very often to the modern Christian one as well). However, there are very plain “signals of transcendence,” as Peter Berger would call them, that there is something very special about the act of sex. Here are several that come to mind.

Read the rest of this entry

Them Before Us: Read It Now!

Phrases like “must read” and “essential reading” are thrown around a lot in book reviews.  Them Before Us, by Katy Faust and Stacy Manning, is one of those rare books that truly deserves such a recommendation.  It is culturally important, comprehensive in scope, novel in approach, reasonably argued, and, as a bonus, is an enjoyable read.  Even the introduction by Robert P. George, alone, is worth the price of admission.  My intent here is to give an overview of the main thrust of the book and then finish up by addressing some of the possible objections to it.

Read the rest of this entry

Preach the Gospel at All Times. Use Words, They Are Necessary.

I’m constantly seeing people post quotes like these:

“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
“It’s more powerful to live your truth than preach it.”
“The life you live is more important than the words you speak.”

I’ve even seen Christians cite this as one of their favorites, which is wrongfully attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

I agree with these sentiments in the sense that an opinion or belief by itself does nothing, and putting our beliefs into action is both proof of our commitment to them and can be winsome to those around us.  But, as even Gandhi understands, there is an intimate causal connection between our beliefs and all our outward expressions.  The importance of beliefs cannot be overstated.  Our opinions and beliefs are what cause us to act, guide us in how to act, and to what end we should act. 

Read the rest of this entry

The Gospel in Plain Language

I was recently in dialog with someone about Christian theology, where we were exploring our potential differences in belief or interpretations. I was concerned to advocate primarily for what I call “classical Christianity,” which involves those essential things shared across all of Christianity, and which arise naturally from taking the biblical narrative as reliable and authoritative. Eventually, I was asked to spell out precisely what it was that I thought essential for salvation. Below is my attempt to do this, but I did not want to simply enumerate core doctrine or use “Christianese” language, which can be off-putting or easily misunderstood. I wanted to approach it in a way that someone without prior knowledge of Christianity could understand and lead into the logical need for the Gospel.

Read the rest of this entry

“Love God and Love People”

I’ve been hearing a number of pastors (some very biblical ones even) using the phrase “love God and love people” as a kind of summary of Christianity. There is even a popular song out on this theme, which suggests that to do otherwise is “complicating things” and “to overthink”: we just “gotta keep it real simple.” But to claim that the bottom line of Christianity is to “love God and love people,” without the need of biblical context, is like a coach telling a young recruit that all he needs to do is “move the ball and play fair.” It is true as far as it goes, but it is functionally deficient as a stand-alone statement and assumes a great deal of prerequisite knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry