Disproving Christianity

I don’t usually get involved in a lot of debates – I realize that is a little odd for someone who is involved with apologetics, but I’m not really much of a debater. Yet, sometimes when I see a debate on a Facebook board, I feel obliged to jump in a little – if for no other reason than to refine my arguments and the presentation of those arguments, and because even armchair apologists like myself require some “street” or “internet cred.” It never hurts to get some ideas for articles, either.

The recent question I noticed was whether Christians would abandon belief in God, if it could be proven that He does not exist. My response was in my usual vein, “Find the body.”

The question for me is not that of proving theism – I’m not merely a generic theist, I’m a Christian, and I try to organize my life around the tenets of my faith. As such, the real question is (or should be), “Would I change my beliefs if someone could disprove Christianity? If so, how could someone disprove Christianity?” The only means to do so is to prove that the Resurrection did not occur, or else to posit something that is more probable, but still adequately explains all of the minimum facts in a reasonable matter.

Here is my organization of the minimum facts that must be disproved. These are ultimately not original with me, but this is the way I organize them:

1 Jesus died when crucified.
2 His followers claimed to have seen Him after His death. These men and women were profoundly changed by what they saw, and most were tortured and killed for their faith; none recanted.
3 Paul and James were skeptics about Jesus who claimed to have seen Jesus after His death. Both became followers after these experiences and both died martyrs’ deaths.
4 The tomb was guarded by soldiers who were answerable to Pilate, yet the tomb was found to be empty.

Any theory about Christian origins must be able to account for all of the above minimum facts. Additionally, to be credible, it must yield to Ockham’s razor, which is not an argument for simplicity – Ockham’s razor is a warning about the multiplication of causes. Specifically, any theory must work from the evidence, not by asserting theories based on inventing evidence without some basis in fact (such as discussion about back doors in the tomb, arguing that everyone somehow forgot which tomb Jesus was actually buried in, etc). Speculation, then, needs to be limited in regards to any such theory.

To date, no explanation other than the Resurrection is successful at dealing with these facts in the manner I’ve noted.

Perhaps someone may come up with an alternate theory that adequately explains the minimal facts in the manner I have described. Similarly, perhaps someone will come up with a way of proving that the moon really is made of green cheese.

Defining Allies and Enemies

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece I entitled “One Allied Army”, wherein I stated that infighting within the Church prevents us from dealing with the real enemies of the Church. I stated specifically, “Whether we are Presbyterians or Baptists; whatever our position on Election or music; if we are Evangelicals; if we believe that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice; that Salvation is gained by Grace through Faith alone; that Jesus is God made man and that He physically, historically was resurrected from the grave, or in short: on the historic Protestant doctrines of the faith— then we are on the same side.” (https://truthinthetrenches.org/2014/07/28/a-single-allied-army/).

How do we define the issues that are worth fighting for? After all, much of Church history has been spent fighting the wrong issues.

My belief is that we have two guides: the first is the Bible, itself. We are warned throughout the New Testament about heresies. We have passages that deal with specific questions: 1 Corinthians 15 for those who deny a future resurrection or the return of Christ, but more succinctly 2 John 2:9-10 demonstrates that we are not to welcome those who do not bring the Gospel of Christ into the Church. I would His Deity, His Humanity, His Resurrection; the complete sufficiency of His sacrifice) are those we oppose.

A second guide is found in Church history, we have defined the key doctrines in multiple ways, through the decades as a result of conflicts with heretical groups. During the past century, one of those defining statements was the five fundamentals of the faith, these being:

1. The Inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Bible.
2. The virgin birth of Christ.
3. The death of Christ is the atonement for sins.
4. The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The historicity of the miracles of Christ.

Similar statements also exist, and can help us to stay on the correct battlefield.

The Atheist Popes

One of the most memorable controversies of the enlightenment period was the Galileo affair. Galileo was accused of heresy because his observations indicated that the sun was the center of the solar system. The key to understanding this controversy is very simple: Thomas Aquinas had married Christian thought with Aristotle during the thirteenth century. When Aristotle’s astronomy was brought into question, Pope Paul V and others within the Western Church chose to ignore the data in favor of Aristotle’s theories.

In the modern days, it is those who claim to favor modern philosophical thinking, however, who operate in terms of Papal decrees. In modern times, atheists will dismiss arguments about the Resurrection, the Flood or anything else involving God’s stepping into history on the grounds of Hume’s argument against miracles: either arguing that because miracles are highly improbable, they cannot happen, or they will argue that the only way a miracle can be accepted is if the evidence is so overwhelming that it would require an infinite amount of evidence to establish, or other rhetorical games.

Throughout history, Christians have recognized numerous failures with the structure of Hume’s argument. The standard answers by believers include the statement that Hume tries to prove “too much”. Pamphlets have been written arguing that, according to David Hume, Alexander the Great could not have conquered the world, or that Napoleon did not exist. Others have noted that Hume’s argument is basically an exercise in begging the question. Hume’s argument is also based on an “overstatement” of the problems with eyewitnesses. Finally, as Hume’s argument has grown, it has mutated into a number of versions, many of which reveal that Hume appears to arise from an artificial dichotomy (belief in miracles is not necessarily contrary to belief in the existence of natural law; since Protestant theologians have long accepted natural law, we only argue that natural law comes from a divine Legislator. All of these approaches are basically correct. Hume’s argument is ultimately incredibly weak and appears to be accepted more for rhetorical reasons than an acceptance based on the facts.

But these approaches fail to address the key similarity I noted above: the practical ramification of the theory is that Hume’s argument against miracles is an argument about ignoring evidence of any specific miracle, on the grounds of a general doctrine (in logical terms, Hume’s argument against miracles in practical terms is an exercise in cherry- picking). In short, to atheists, Hume’s argument is “holy writ.” To avoid the ramifications of a miracle for their system of thought, they will therefore refuse to limit their discussions to the evidence. They invent theories that contradict the data. For example, one atheist has suggested that the tomb had a back door, despite the lack of archeological evidence for tombs with back doors, and despite the fact that the Apostles would not have knowingly endured torture and execution for something they would have known to be a lie. But, those of us who point out the contradictions are labeled as “irrational”.

The more I read of atheists, the more I am convinced: they are the true errors of Pope Paul V.

Tragedy of Compromise in Psychology part 2: Coffee filters

Many times, Christians note Augustine of Hippo’s assertion that we should “plunder the Egyptians,” or in other words, we should borrow the scholarship of the world around us. Yet, as inspiring as Augustine’s ideas are on this subject, he is also a negative example of what can happen when we borrow unbelieving scholarship uncritically. Augustine borrowed very heavily from the philosophical ideas of Plato, and this had a negative affect both on his theology and on his method of interpreting the Scriptures.

As noted in our work on the Tragedy of Compromise, my view is that we need to stay aware of, and reject, ideas that require assumptions that do not accord with the Christian faith. I base this on something I call the “Unified Fields Theory of Apologetics”, which is a statement of systematic theology that I discussed in a brief form, in an article on our more technical site. (Systematic theology is an orderly, rational account of the Christian faith and beliefs along with the attempt to answer the religious questions I’ve noted elsewhere). That article can be found here: http://apologiafides.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/squaring-the-circle/.

I am not suggesting that we ignore actual scientific data or that we ignore studies by those outside of the faith. Paul himself quoted from pagan poets and borrowed language from the stoics. One of the first intellectual challenges for the young Christian faith was to communicate its ideas to those outside of the faith.

Psychology does have some actual benefits. There are scientific elements within psychology that may be beneficial. For example, studies of the effects of sleep deprivation on human beings and certain statistical studies, (e.g. a certain percentage of the population will react to a given stimuli in a given way) are both valuable. Counselors may use counseling techniques in a manner similar to the way a preacher learns and uses the art of effective or persuasive speaking and writing.

I am suggesting that we need to filter psychology because much of what passes for psychology is religion, in disguise.

Confessions of a failed Christian

Recently, I came into contact with two sources, both of which expressed their opinions that Christians appear to believe that they are morally superior to non-believers. This actually makes me rather sad, because it basically misses the entire point of the Christian faith, or of the moral codes in the Old Testament: the Ten Commandments.

You see, I’m not a perfect Christian, and if the question is whether or not Christians are free from sin, well, I must be a bad example. I am tempted as much as every other man, and sometimes I fail to resist temptations. What is more, I know I am not alone. I have never met a perfect Christian, and even the best, most moral believers I have ever met must admit that they are in the same condition.

I don’t know where this mistaken belief originates. Perhaps it comes from Christians who do not fully explain the gospel (as I term it, “They only discuss the first chapter of the Christian experience”). Perhaps it is because some claim to be believers, yet they do not fully understand the gospel. Or, it could be due to the fact that Christianity has taken certain stands, which are not fully understood by those outside of the faith. Whatever the reason may be, this is a tragic misunderstanding of Christian teachings.

Christians believe that the point of the Ten Commandments is not to provide a code that man can use for self-reformation, or a set of rules for man to live by. Rather, God’s purpose in the Ten Commandments is to demonstrate that we cannot live morally. In the age-old debate of whether man is basically good, basically evil, or morally neutral: Christianity is solidly on the “Man is basically evil” side of the fence. When we say man is a sinner, this is what we mean. In short, Christianity of the heart always begins with a simple admission: “I am a failure who has not lived up to God’s standards, and my inability to keep the Law proves that point.”

Yet, as I noted, this is only the first chapter. When we tell you, “God says what you are doing is wrong”, we aren’t judging you — because it isn’t the Christian’s judgment to make. Instead, we are telling you the very thing that we have already learned for ourselves: that God is a Judge, who has a perfect standard, and we don’t live up to it; neither do you. There is still hope, however, as encapsulated throughout the Bible.

The center of Christianity is Christ, Himself. He is the second person of the Trinity: God who became man; who lived a perfect life. Just as the Law judges me guilty and therefore deserving of death and hell, it judged Him to be totally perfect, and deserving therefore of Life. Yet, Jesus chose instead to die, paying the price for my sins — the debt that I can’t pay, so that I gain the benefit of His perfect life. The fact that God accepts this sacrifice is proven by His Resurrection from the dead, as we are discussing on our more technical site.

The intended purpose of this site is apologetics (explaining/defending the faith), and usually I focus, to a certain degree, on the formal issues of the Christian faith. Yet, this answer is as important as any other. Perhaps, if you bristle at Christians when they discuss morality, what you are really feeling is the pricking of your conscience. I understand the desire, as do all believers: we all want to think of ourselves as “good people” and it is conceivable that you are, in comparison to others. Yet, compared to God’s standards, we all fail to pass the test. There is an old saying that the first step is to admit that we have a problem. When it comes to sin, there is ultimately hope if we are willing to admit the ugly truth: God’s moral standards prove me imperfect and in need of Jesus as my Savior.

John 3:16 says, “For thus God loved the world, and the result is that He gave his beloved Son, that whoever will trust in Him will not be destroyed, but will have eternal life” (translation mine). Christians come to Jesus by simply trusting in His sacrifice as the final sacrifice for sin; by prayerfully asking Him to save us from destruction; to give us eternal life. Following that, the Christian life is lived, not because we are morally superior, but because we seek to honor and love the Lord who saved us. And He can — and will save you.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are working, and carrying a heavy burden, and I will give you rest.” If the burden of your sin; if the pricking of your conscience warns you of God’s judgment, remember that He has promised to receive those who will trust in Him.

The Tragedy of Compromise in Psychology part 1: Examples

Recently, I discussed a series of articles entitled “The Tragedy of Compromise,” focusing on the dangers of Christians adapting the theory of evolution to Christian thought. My argument was that this was a violation of the first commandment, since evolution requires the presuppositions of another religion (https://truthinthetrenches.org/category/evolution/the-tragedy-of-compromise/).

As I noted at the time, evolution is not the only area where the Church faces this danger. Another area in which Christians need to be cautious is our acceptance of many elements of modern social sciences; we will begin with a discussion of psychology.

To explain this point, I would like to use a few illustrations of areas where psychology is influenced by naturalistic presuppositions. Maslow and those who have followed him in discussing human needs tend to ignore the preeminent place for the inborn need we have for God, because we were created to serve Him. In many senses (particularly with Maslow), the “higher levels of needs” in many ways suggest a self-focused life that is the antithesis of Christian beliefs. What little reference Maslow makes to religion is solely stated in terms of “security needs,” similar to one’s needs for shelter, a steady job, etc.

Some theories of psychology differ irreconcilably from Christian positions concerning the conscience. In many ways, Freud’s theories assume that the conscience (or as he termed it, the super-ego) developed from external forces, rather than from the workings of God (Romans 2:15) and often painted the conscience as a negative force within the human heart. Thus, at times, he argued that the conscience needed to be weakened, in order to prevent feelings of guilt (guilt, of course, being, in many cases, God’s witness of Himself to draw others to Himself). Similarly, Kohlberg’s theory of moral development seems to imply the desirability of degrading the conscience.

These and other theories demonstrate the reasons that many psychological theories are influenced by naturalistic presuppositions and why many theories need to be rejected. In our next piece we will discuss Christians borrowing from psychology.