Monday, January 30, 2012

Quote of the week - Dinesh D'Souza on conservatism

"Conservatives recognize that there are two principles in human nature—good and evil—and these are in constant conflict. Given the warped timber of humanity, conservatives seek a social structure that helps to bring out the best in human nature and suppress man’s lower or base impulses. Conservatives support capitalism because it is a way of steering our natural pursuit of self-interest toward the material betterment of society at large. Conservatives insist that there are evil regimes and destructive forces in the world that cannot be talked out of their nefarious objectives; force is an indispensable element of international relations. Finally conservatives support autonomy when it is attached to personal responsibility—when people are held accountable for their actions—but they also believe in the indispensability of moral incubators (the family, the church, civic institutions) that are aimed at instructing people to choose virtue over vice."

- Dinesh D'Souza,  Letters to a Young Conservative (Basic Books, 2002), pg.3 

Related D'Souza posts
Debates and lectures  

Progressive revolutions revealed (3 part video lecture)

Voting as a Christian

Thursday, January 26, 2012

R.C. Sproul on the Christian mind

"What God reveals is intelligible; we can understand it with our intellect. He doesn’t ask us to throw away our minds in order to become Christians. There are people who think that to become a Christian, one must leave one’s brain somewhere in the parking lot. The only leap that the New Testament calls us to make is not into the darkness but out of the darkness into the light, into that which we can indeed understand. That is not to say that everything the Christian faith speaks of is manifestly clear with respect to rational categories. I can’t understand, for example, how a person can have a divine nature and a human nature at the same time, which is what we believe about Jesus. That’s a mystery—but mysterious is not the same as irrational." 

More here. (image taken from the same link)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For or against Calvinism?

Michael Horton, for calvinism, and Roger Olson, against calvinism, discuss their differences over grace and free will recorded live at Biola University. 

Part 1 here
Part 2 here.

You can also check out my post "bad arguments against calvinism" here.

Image taken from this website.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quote of the week - Adam Smith

"The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamored with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board."

- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flying spaghetti monster

If you've ever been in a long conversation with someone about the existence of God, there is a strong possibility the, "well, couldn't you replace the word 'god' with, oh I don't know, 'flying spaghetti monster'? I don't see how those arguments can explain God." You've answered the person's questions on existence, morality, science, and then as if you haven't answered anything, out of the clear blue sky, the person responds with this super-duper-awesome defeater known as...wait for it...oh here it comes...*cue empire music from star wars*...the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Behold! The noodly monster who destroys all reasonable arguments! Bow to its (or his) infinite coolness and hardness! None hangs harder than the great

Yeah, ok.....

Let's read how William Lane Craig answers the following question.

Dear Professor Craig,

The cumulative case for the existence for God proceeds from some data (physical constants, sentient souls, testimonies for miracles, etc.) to the existence of God as the best explanation of these data. There are some important objections. 1. Such inference does not show why theism is a better explanation than, say, the hypothesis of the existence of a very powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster. 2. Neither it says why some evil being - some powerful, malevolent being, say, something like Satan - is not a better explanation than God; especially when the existing evil is included in the data. How would you counter? Thank you very much.


Craig writes

Your question is really about what the various arguments for God’s existence, if sound, enable us to infer about the nature of the being proved by such arguments. Different arguments will enable us to infer different attributes, so that the case for God’s existence is, as you state, cumulative. 


it’s plausible that any ultimate explanation must involve a personal being which is incorporeal. For any being composed of material stuff will exhibit precisely that specified complexity that we are trying to explain. The old “Who designed the Designer?” objection thus presses hard against any construal of the Designer as a physical object (see my “Richard Dawkins’ Argument for Atheism in The God Delusion” in the Question of the Week Archive). That immediately rules out the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a final explanation.

What about the other theistic arguments? The contingency argument, if successful, proves the existence of a metaphysically necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe (see “Argument from Contingency” in the Question of the Week Archive). That conclusion is also incompatible with the Sufficient Reason of all things being the Flying Spaghetti Monster, since as a physical object (even if invisible to our senses) he can be neither metaphysically necessary, timeless, spaceless, nor immaterial.

The kalam cosmological argument, if sound, gives us grounds for believing in the existence of a beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, Personal Creator of the universe. Again, a being with such attributes cannot be anything like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The moral argument complements the cosmological and design arguments by telling us about the moral nature of the Creator of the universe. It gives us a personal, necessarily existent being who is perfectly good and whose nature is the standard of goodness and whose commands constitute our moral duties. This argument rules out any suggestion that the metaphysical ultimate is some evil being akin to Satan. As a privation of goodness, evil is parasitic upon the Good and so cannot exist as the highest being. 

Finally, the ontological argument gives us reason to think that God, as the greatest conceivable being, is metaphysically necessary and maximally excellent, that is to say, omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good. The poor Flying Spaghetti Monster is, alas, left trailing in the dust.

I think you can see that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is vastly overrated, both as a parody and as a being. As a parody, he fails to show that an inference to an intelligent designer of the universe is either illegitimate or unwarranted. What the parody shows is that we are not justified in attributing to our explanatory postulates arbitrary properties that are not justified by the evidence. Natural theologians have always known this. That’s why, for example, Thomas Aquinas, after his five brief paragraphs in his Summa theologiae proving the existence of a being “to which everyone gives the name ‘God’,” goes on to discuss in the next nine questions God’s simplicity, perfection, goodness, limitlessness, omnipresence, immutability, eternity, and unity. 

As a being, the Flying Spaghetti Monster comes up drastically deficient as an explanation of those phenomena, some of which you list, which lie at the basis of the arguments for God’s existence. Those arguments, if all sound, as I think they are, require cumulatively a being which is the metaphysically necessary, self-existent, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator and Designer of the universe, who is perfectly good, whose nature is the standard of goodness, and whose commands constitute our moral duties.

The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology. One might as well be speaking a foreign language. That people could think that belief in God is anything like the groundless belief in a fantasy monster shows how utterly ignorant they are of the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Paley, Sorley, and a host of others, past and present. No doubt part of the fault lies with equally ignorant Christians who have no answer when called upon to give a reason for the hope within and who therefore give the impression of arbitrary and groundless belief. But it must also be attributed to poor education, intellectual laziness, and a lack of curiosity. Given the revival of natural theology in our day over the last half century, we have no excuse for such lame caricatures of theistic belief as belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster." 

When one resorts to spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, 1/4 pounder with cheese, etc., it's nothing more than rhetoric. I don't think any serious thinker actually has confidence in counters like the appeal to the FSM. Spaghetti and meatballs are within the human domain, created by intelligent beings and dependent upon the existence of the universe.

Read Craig's full response here 

Related post

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What would you do if there were no God?

Quick thoughts on this question. I've read the question many times and I've had some ask me the question: what would you if there were no God\god\gods? Would I rape? Murder? Rob? Pillage and plunder? Would I do all of those things all of the time? To answer quickly (as I mentioned in the beginning of this post): without God, this question is meaningless because there would be no duty-bound, intrinsically valuable humans with moral faculties. As Paul Copan said in response to this very question asked by Michael Shermer: "Shermer wrongly thinks he can rest content in knowing moral truths concerning human rights and obligations (i.e., in the realm of epistemology) and yet ignore the basis for those truths (i.e., the realm of metaphysics)."

If God did not exist, then the world would be a very different place. Questions of this kind only make sense against the backdrop of a theistic worldview. On theism, the divine Creator transfers His image to his human creatures giving them dignity and moral knowledge. The theist acknowledges that people can live by and know objective moral values and duties without believing in God and without having a Bible.My answer to the question is: if there were no God*, then we would not have moral knowledge, i.e., we would not have a sense of moral duty, dignity, and selflessness. All we would have is reciprocal altruism and kin selection at best

* I'm convinced that if there were no God, then I would not be writing this blog post. :) Nor would you be reading it. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quote of the week - William Lane Craig

"...if there is no God, any basis for regarding the herd morality evolved by Homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. Take God out of the picture, and all you're left with is an apelike creature on a speck of solar dust beset with delusions of moral grandeur."

-William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), pg. 144

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Five books I recommend

Occasionally, people ask me what books do I recommend them to read and I ask them if they mean fiction, non-fiction, and then the genre of both types. So, I came up with a top-five list of books I recommend to people. Later on, I'm going to write a book review for each book and will post the review here and on Amazon.

If you're not familiar with the book series Redwall, well you're missing out on some excellent books. Redwall is not a series that you have to read book 1 then book 2, etc. Each book in the series is an isolated story (except for Mariel of Redwall and the Bellmaker - the Bellmaker is a continuation of M of Redwall). Did the author, Brian Jacques, have a chronological order for the books? Yeah he did, but there is no story value in reading the books in his order.

Redwall is a fantasy series involving no humans at all. The characters are of the rodent variety (mice, rats, weasels, squirrels, etc. with a few exceptions of wolverines and cats), anthropomorphic of course, and while one could say the world has a medieval setting, it's not like Narnia at all because there are no mythological creatures nor is there any religion in the books. The author does show there is good and evil, but also does deal with some gray issues in a few books.

Mossflower is my favorite in the series and a good starting book for a new Redwall reader.

"America is the greatest, freest, and most decent society in existence," writes Dinesh D'Souza. "American life as it is lived today [is] the best life that our world has to offer." The books is full of good arguments and D'Souza's humor. The book is not dry at all. Critics and champions of America alike should read this book. Learn why America is great.

This was the second book in Christian apologetics I read and I have to say: I wish it had been the first one. Listening to a debate between Hitchens and D'Souza on the existence of God and then another debate he had with Shermer caused me to rethink my positions on ultimate issues. I was a devout postmodernist (the label I use as a blanket label for relativism, nihilism, and apathy) thinking all theists were dumb, lived under rocks, and believed in a cosmic genie or a cosmic carnival of some sort; I didn't know about the arguments *for* God. The only "arguments" (I use that term loosely) I had heard before listening to debates like that were the following: well ya just gotta' have faith my boy; well you can't disprove god; didn't you see that spiritual experience he/she/they had?; you don't want to burn in hell do you?; and the list of bad arguments goes on.

Anyway, to put it simply, listening to "God" debates slowly changed my position from postmodernist to a Christian theist. This book helped me to learn deeper the arguments for Christianity. Also, the book is written by D'Souza so you won't be bored at all even if you find books like this boring, give it a try. I also don't expect every atheist/skeptic/non-Christian that reads this book will magically become a Christian, but I think every person who reads this will have *some* or even one question answered in a positive way.

On the other end of the debate, I recommend this book because you will understand the basic arguments for why a person is not a theist (I understood the arguments here well because a lot them were my reasons for not being a theist, particularly a Christian). If you're a Christian and for some reason you don't want to read this book, then I say you do at your own peril (by peril I mean, you may not understand your non-theist friends, or worse, their arguments). Of course, you could at least watch debates, but I highly recommend the book. Are there are other good atheist books? Sure. However, none are written as well as Hitchens' book.

My fifth recommendation was probably the most difficult because there are so many good books! Do I add another fiction or non-fiction? Well, obviously I decided to go with non-fiction and add another philosophy work to round out my philosophy recommendations. This book would be a fine book to read after reading D'souza's book I think. The book is in essay format and topical, so there is no need to read from page one to the ending (you will want to read the whole book, just maybe not in order). What the book does great is organize the book into three parts: part one is on the existence of God, part two is on the Jesus of history, and then part three is on the coherence of Christian doctrine.

There are some books I wanted to add to the this list, but of course I didn't. I have A LOT of favorite books, but the five I mentioned are the top five books I would recommend because I think Mossflower is the best in fiction and the non-fiction books I mentioned are the best in their genre.

The following books are some that almost made it to my top five list. It was a struggle, but I'm still satisfied with my top five list (note these are books that I've read and not books I've heard are good - the list could be longer, but I don't want to bore with you all of the books I've read through the years)

* Lord of the Rings trilogy 
* Martian Chronicles 
* Illustrated Man
* The Giver

* Patriot's History of the U.S.
* Liberal Fascism 
* The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach 

* Who Made God? Searching for a theory of everything
* Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (a debate book featuring Bill Craig and Quentin Smith)
* On Guard 
* Basic Writings of Nietzsche
* Either/Or: A Fragment of Life 
* The Philosophy Book
* Reason and Responsibility: readings in some basic problems in philosophy

* The Holiness of God
* Discovering the God who is

Monday, January 9, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Is the Bible a love letter?

First off to answer my title: I hope not. Have you ever heard people say that? "I believe God’s Word is His love letter to the human race," is what I heard and still hear every now and then. When I was a skeptic, hearing statements like that made me laugh. Now, as a Christian, hearing statements like that cause me to a) almost barf and b) want to smack the person on the back of the head (hey, I'm only roughly a 3 year old Christian).

Why does hearing a statement like "the bible is a love letter" cause me to feel such things? Because it's ridiculous to think the Bible is a love letter. Have you ever wrote a history paper, then give it to your crush\date\spouse as a love letter? I know I wouldn't. If I had been given one as a love letter I would have seriously wondered what I done wrong in the relationship. The bible records historical accounts, has wisdom literature, prophetic works, biographical works, and then pastoral letters to struggling churches; hardly what I would call a love letter, but many people think so. Click here to see how many do.

Honestly, to call the Bible a love letter, to me anyway, is to devalue the book. I think it's a low-view of the Bible and of God. I think when you have that kind of view of God and the special revelation he has given us through history and man, which was recorded in the Bible; then you have a distorted view of Christianity. When I read the Bible I don't read anything at all that reads like a love letter (there are some love statements, particularly in the poetry section of the Bible). In the Bible I find wars, genealogies, suffering, biographical accounts, etc.; not a whole lot of, "Oh baby, I miss you so much. You're my everything."

When I read the Bible, there are moments of awe and adoration of God, e.g., chapter 3 of Paul's letter to Titus: "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." You know what though? Paul's letters are tough. They're not at all like love letters. Instead, he takes the approach of tearing down, then building up, which is actually the best approach (subjectively speaking of course).

I don't want to discourage anyone from reading the Bible because it's actually a very good book. I personally am convinced that it is an inspired and holy book; a book that should be read by all Christians who are able to have a Bible. I think the Bible deserves more respect than labeling it a "love letter."

John Macarthur gives things to avoid while studying the Bible.

"Don't make a point at the cost of proper interpreta­tion . In other words, don't make the Bible say what you want it to say. That's like the preacher who proclaimed that women shouldn't wear their hair on top of their heads. His text was "Top Knot Come Down," supposedly from Matthew 24:17, which says, "Let him who is on the housetop not come down" (King James Version). Obviously that's not what the passage is about! Don't try to find verses to support a preconceived idea. I know if I try to make a sermon, I end up forcing the Bible to fit my sermon. But if I try to comprehend a passage, a message will flow out of the understanding that follows.

In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul says, "For we are not like many, peddling the word of God." The Greek word translated "peddling" is kapeleuo, which referred to selling something deceitfully in the marketplace--something that wasn't what it claimed to be. You must not force the Bible to illustrate your preconceived notions. Be careful not to interpret the Bible at the cost of its true meaning.

Avoid superficial Bible study . Unfortunately, some Bible studies consist of nothing more than person's saying, "I guess this verse means..." or "What does this verse mean to you?" Basically that's a pooling of ignorance--a lot of people sitting around telling what they don't know about the verse. To have a successful Bible study, someone has to study the passage beforehand to find out what it really means. Only then can you discuss it intelligently and apply it. Interpretation requires work. Don't take the easy way out and believe what everyone tells you the Bible says. Check the facts out yourself. Don't assume there are many interpretations of a biblical passage. There may be many applications, but there is only one true interpretation. God's Word is precise. It is not ambiguous. God has given us the ability to discover its meaning.

Don't spiritualize the text . The first sermon I ever preached was really bad. My text was, "The angel rolled the stone away" from Matthew 28. I entitled my sermon, "Rolling Away the Stones in Your Life." I talked about the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, and the stone of anger. Doubt, fear, and anger are all legitimate topics, but they have nothing to do with that verse! I call that "Little Bo Peep Preaching" because you don't need the Bible; you can use anything--even "Little Bo Peep."

Picture a preacher saying this: "Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep. All over the world people are lost. And can't tell where to find them. But they'll come home--ah, they'll come." Then you hear a tear-jerking story about sinners who came home "wagging their tails behind them!" Ridiculous? Yes, but unfortunately not too hard to imagine.

Many people tend to do that with the Old Testament. They turn it into a fairy tale with all kinds of hidden meanings--anything but what the text plainly states. Don't spiritualize the Bible. It deserves more respect."

Commenter Tony-Allen has a few things to say about the Bible being labeled a love letter.

"It's what happens when you take a single trait of God and overemphasize it at the cost of all of God's other traits. That's where a lot of this spiritualizing that MacArthur mentions comes from. You pick and choose what you desire to believe or emphasize about the Lord.

The biggest problem, aside from the superficial theology it will give you and the "Little Bo Beep preaching" it will produce, is that you'll be eaten alive when you meet critics of the faith who know scripture better than you do. Christopher Hitchens was often quick (and rightfully so) to call out Christians who refused to deal with what text said. After all, if the Bible is God's "love letter" to to mankind, then what love did He show the people of Sodom and Gomorrah? What love did He show everyone outside the ark when the flood waters came? Do I believe God has love? Yes, but how can you know love unless you know upon what basis you can judge such love? I believe God showed love by taking my place on the cross and bearing the wrath and judgment I rightfully deserved, so that on the day of judgment I would not end up like those in Sodom, Gomorrah or the land outside the ark. If we can't realize that God is much more than superficial love, then we can't even pretend to think we understand God."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quote of the week - Hegel

"The goal to be reached is the mind’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary;..."

- Hegel

The Phenomenology of Mind (1807)

Why we should all be grateful for the Tea Party

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express and opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless… These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.

Why we should ALL be grateful for the Tea Party

I realize that there has been no force as hated and vilified by both sides of the of the political spectrum as the Tea Party. The question that needs to be asked is why?

Why hate an organization that did what it said it would do? I realize it is a massive departure from the normal crap that happens in Washington D.C. to say differently would be to lie, and the Tea Party isn't about lies. They are about truth, deeply rooted, unapologetic truth.  America has been screwed by both the right and the left. The Right has done something about it, the Tea Party, the left can't do anything about it, because if they do, then they will have to admit that their policies and desires are Socialist or Communist, and well, that will never happen, because then they have to admit, they were wrong and Capitalism is a failure, which is what they are trying to do anyway, with Obamacare, Dream Act, and the fact that for the two years they had complete control over the political system, no budgets, just continuing resolutions that added trillions to the bottom line, they will finally have to admit that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all Ponzi Schemes, and the future is being bent over and screwed.

The Tea Party stood up saying ENOUGH!!!!! The stood there saying they wouldn't pass Continuing Resolutions, or a National Budget without finding a way to pay for it. They have started to expose the dirty secret of Beltway Politics, it is all smoke and mirrors, unless someone has the testies and nerve to say black is black white is white and we have to fix things NOW.

Tea Party members have been called terrorists, hate mongers, racists (because they don't have Black Americans and Mexican Americans involved - yet they have more of them involved then the Occupy forces who were and still are mostly lilly white!)

Here is a group of people who have stood up to the same ol thing, and have been bashed and hated for it. So ask yourself why? Why hate people who have proven their love for this great country? Why hate people who say we can't do the same old thing? Why not support them, help them fix what is wrong?

To do what they have done takes courage. To take the ridicule and abuse that would be considered hate crimes by the left, if they were black, Mexican, homosexual, transgender etc... But they are REPUBLICANS, so they must be treated as if they are syphilitic whores who can't get medical treatment.

I say they are true Americans who have been maligned by the left liberal media, the Huffington Post, (even though considering the Huffington Post to be a true news outlet is the same as considering the National Enquirer as being the best written weekly on the face of the earth.)

Or at least that is how Mark C's it.

Happy New Year to all! May you all have the courage to stand up for your convictions!