CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

On Dealing with Atheists

Jul 23, 2008

It is amazing, when you think about it, that a major newspaper like the Melbourne Age actually pays people to do little more than write columns attacking the beliefs of millions of Australians. Atheist Catherine Deveny writes regular columns insulting and vilifying people of faith, and the editors of the Age are evidently quite happy to let her get away with this.

Never mind that she is more than likely breaking the law in doing so. I refer to the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act which speaks to this very thing: insulting, offending and vilifying people because of their religious beliefs. That is supposed to be illegal. But like trendy artists, it seems that opinion piece writers are above the law.

Of course Ms Deveny is a typical atheist, and most newspapers have a few hardcore God-haters who regularly churn out their misotheist venom and bile. Indeed, much of the mainstream media today would feel remiss if there were not a number of such folk on board, turning out their anti-Christian bigotry.

She had yet another column in today’s Age, again letting her poisonous tongue run riot, as she flails at anything and anyone even remotely religious. Her silly charges are becoming so tedious and routine, and are easily answered. But my purpose here is not to rebut her specifically, but to look at some more general issues.

My real concern is to ask – and hopefully answer – the question that many believers might be thinking at this point: Just how is a Christian supposed to respond to such attacks? What is one to do with such hardened atheists who relish in mocking and attacking those who love God?

Some might say that we should simply ignore her. Yes, that is a possible option. Sometimes that may be the best way to go. But it seems that there are three obvious ways to proceed if a response is in order. They all happen to be biblical and proper responses. But prayer and discernment will be required as to which one is most appropriate in a given situation, or if some combination of the three is required.

The first response is simply to offer a point by point rejoinder to their charges and accusations. Of course I do that on a regular basis here and elsewhere. That is part of what we are called to do in 1 Peter 3:15. Christian apologetics involves providing honest answers to honest questions, and dealing with the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the Christian faith.

Another way is to look at atheism as Scripture does. Of course the most famous passage which comes to mind here is Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” In one sense Catherine Deveny, and all other atheists, are simply fools, and they will realise what great fools they have been when they one day stand before the very throne of God, with their mouths closed, heads hung low, with all their feeble and lame excuses vanishing in an instant.

Jesus made it quite clear that those who reject him and his message are sealing their own fate. Christ is the only provision God has made for us to get right with God and escape a lost eternity. If people reject Christ and his substitutionary sacrifice for our sins on the cross, then there is no further remedy for our predicament.

Hell is real, and those who reject God and the work of Christ will tragically find themselves there, and without excuse. This may not mean much to the atheist now, but it is a reality which must be proclaimed nonetheless.

A third type of response is a more gentle approach. That is, it involves taking such people back to the heart of the gospel. Remind them that Jesus loves us all so much that he died for us in our place, so that we might live with him forever. The desire of God’s heart is to share in a wonderful love relationship with us. Sin has separated us from that relationship, but Jesus has provided a way out of our dilemma.

When atheists like Deveny rage against God, it is possible they have some reasons for this. She speaks about her lousy experiences of church as a young person. I do not know anything about those experiences, but I am sure that many people are turned off to God because of religiosity, and bad personal experiences.

But the good news is, despite whatever unpleasant experiences one may have had with a church or religion, real Christianity is quite different: it is about a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus we must pray fervently for these atheists, and hope that they come to their senses, and their blindness is overcome by the wonderful love of God.

They need to know that often the God they think they are rejecting is nothing like the real God of the universe. They have rejected a caricature, and a bogeyman, but not the true God of whom Jesus Christ is our most wonderful expression.

Ms Deveny is obviously bitter, hurt and disillusioned. She may have good reason to be. But all I can tell her is, at the end of the day, the same Jesus Christ that she obviously rejects is still standing there with his outstretched, nail-scarred hands, hoping to embrace her, love her, forgive her, cleanse her, heal her, soothe and comfort her, and have a relationship with her, if she will only allow him to.

Of course that means she must lay down her arms, get off her high horse, stop pretending she is the centre of the universe, and come to Jesus simply with her needs, emptiness and brokenness. The final decision is up to her, and all other atheists. Jesus has done everything to woo these God-haters back to himself. But heaven and hell as a destination will ultimately be decided by our own decisions.

Thus I pray for Ms Deveny and other atheists. I pray that their blindness and hardness will melt away, and that they will see Jesus for the lovely, beautiful and majestic Saviour that he is. That may be the best response to atheists: to pray for them, to love them, to be patient with them, and hope that some see the light.

Many of course have done just that during the past 2,000 years. Countless atheists, agnostics, and secularists have come to marvel at the matchless love, grace, mercy and beauty of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that Ms Deveny – and all like her – will also have a personal, life-changing encounter with the living and loving triune God.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

www.theage.com.au/opinion/red-hot-enlightenment-led-me-to-believe-in-one-fewer-god-20080722-3jas.html

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124 Responses to On Dealing with Atheists

  • How ironic; if Catherine Deveny is “more than likely breaking the law,” I suggest you turn yourself in as well for insulting, offending and vilifying atheists.
    Brian Westley

  • Thanks Brian

    But I am not sure how urging believers to pray for and love atheists is grounds for a religious vilification lawsuit. But more importantly, it is interesting that you seem to imply that atheism is in fact a religion. We have been arguing that for years, so thanks for helping us make our case.

    And if you do not mind, I will add you to my prayer list. I trust that you will not regard this as vilification.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    Your writing is often as scathing as Catherine Deveny’s when you are writing about your theological and political positions. Do you feel that religion should be totally above criticism or analysis (clumsily executed or not)?

    James Beattie

  • Pardon me for butting in here, Bill, but I kinda got the impression that your reference to the vilification law was tongue-in-cheek which would make Brian’s post somewhat pointless… or am I misrepresenting what you wrote?

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks James

    I hope I am not as scathing as Deveny. If I unnecessarily have caused offence in this regard, I offer my apologies. The trick is to not attack the person. But lousy ideas I think do need to be vigorously resisted. I do not claim to have this down to a fine art yet, and wish to be wise and gracious in how I discuss these matters.

    I would ask for your prayers on this, although my understanding is that this may not quite be your cup of tea!

    As to religion being subject to criticism and assessment, by all means, yes it should be. But I would have thought that most people reading today’s piece by Deveny would have found not a careful, well-reasoned critique, but a rant with a lot of God-bashing and anti-Christian bigotry.

    But thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Mark

    Actually you raise a good point here. I and many others fought like mad against these vilification laws, because they are really quite bad laws. They war against freedom of speech, and seem especially designed to silence Christians. Other posts on this site explain this in more detail.

    So yes, I was being a bit facetious here. Since I think these are such bad laws which should really be struck down, I would not consider using them myself. Although mind you, there are many instances in which they could well be used. There is so much public Christian-bashing going on nowadays, I would think it would be a full time job to prosecute all the offenders if believers were to make use of these laws.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • God doesn’t believe in atheists.
    Therefore atheists don’t exist!
    Robert Colman

  • Hi James,

    Having read both Bill’s and Catherine’s writings for the last 12 months, I would say that there are substantial differences between the two. Bill regularly refers to evidence, whereas Catherine sets herself up as judge & jury – basically the centre of the universe. When Bill is scathing it’s because the evidence is strong but is still being ignored for the sake of pride. Catherine is scathing and often sarcastic and will never be swayed, no matter what the evidence may say. Her opinion rules the universe. But any believer will recognize that Bill has vision (although we all see through the glass darkly), but Catherine is blind, like most outspoken atheists.

    So bring your “criticism and analysis” and, if honest and not just nefarious or vexatious, it will be answered. If I did the same to Catherine, she would just scoff or ignore it.

    I actually had a letter published in The Age Easter Saturday in response to one of her articles.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/letters/cut-this-program-and-lives-will-be-lost/2008/03/21/1205602652791.html?page=6

    Mark Rabich

  • Bill, she is firing the editor’s bullets. He is hiding behind her. I would like very much for him to prove me wrong by allowing you to make a response with him letting you keep responding to each of her responses; however this is not his style. It is my experience that if he published your response he would encourage her to write a diatribe. This diatribe would not engage with your points, but rather simply abuse you, and your response pointing this out would not be published.

    Stan Fishley

  • Hi Bill,

    After reading the article I would have thought she is poking more fun at the Catholics?? Having said that though some of her points are well worn. Personally I did find that catholic get together rather strange from what I saw in the media but they are free to do as they please within the laws of the land. I guess my view is distorted since I spent my school years at catholic school. In regards to praying for an atheist? I am quite sure if they knew, it would just aggravate the situation. Many are very touchy about such things and see it as an insult. It has been said in the past to me and I politely reply that I do not require it but thanks for the offer. Bill, I must say that sometimes you can be a bit abrupt but I put that down to your passion in your belief. If we are passionate in what we believe we can often become emotional. Nothing wrong there unless you have some form of ordinance strapped to your body or you are flying a plane!!! Tolerance and freedom is important and I think it is good that we debate each others points of view.

    Ben Green

  • Catherine Deveny appears to be so into ego that she thinks that everytime someone laughs at her coarse attempts at humour, she must be funny (people also laugh when they are shocked, offended, embarrassed and awkward). My “opinion piece” on her is that her writing is pathetic – unworthy of any reaction, let alone a smile.

    She writes in a particular manner. It’s not about serious journalism or even credible opinion – it’s about ego, shock-factor and offence-giving. It speaks volumes of The Age that they consider her worthy of the status of “opinion writer”. Her piece is not worthy of a reasoned response nor of any undue attention. That would just give her more ammunition for mockery and derision – the style that she apparently delights to adopt, whether on stage or in print.

    It’s a pathetic persona that is drunk with a mocking cynicism, a sarcasm, critical spirit, a deep sense of alienation from mainstream values and a reactive, damning view of anything that might be held deeply by others.

    It is hard to see her as one who would respect anything or anyone. No one would feel secure in the presence of her destructive tongue.

    She might cringe, but I feel sorry for her. What an empty world she must endure when all she has (as any apparently convinced atheist does) is a very profound yet vulnerable belief in herself – the product of nothing; the consequence of chaos, chance and randomness; the loneliness of meaninglessness, purposelessness; set to drift in the emptiness of uncertainty, relativism and selfism and the damned to the insecurity of nothing being fixed or certain or reliable – just self – for all the rest of us must be just like her too – totally untrustworthy (just accidental random blobs).

    Bob Johnston

  • Sad C Deveny’s circle of friends can’t engage her in giving reasons for their faith and an answer to the questions she raised. I know plenty who could if she’s game to mix in with them.
    Ian Lloyd

  • Thanks Ben

    I hope you don’t mind but I have prayed for you in the past. And it is not a bad thing. It is seeking God’s good and blessing on your life. To be honest, I am very glad people were praying for me before I am became a Christian. Had they not been praying, I would have likely ended up as many of my friends did back then – either dead from a drug overdose or a suicide victim.

    And yes, she was attacking the Catholic Church especially, but as a Protestant Christian it is similar to attacking my beliefs to some extent as well. Sure, there is much about both Catholic and Protestant churches that perhaps deserve attack and criticism. But as I mentioned, she needs to look beyond her bitter experiences as a young person, and as an adult seriously consider the claims of Christ, instead of just lashing out at belief in a juvenile fashion because she had a bad experience long ago.

    We have all had lousy experiences in the past, but we should be adult enough to see through the rubbish and discern if there is anything of value in what we are rejecting. Ms Deveny seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As I say, she can forget religion and churchiosity altogether, and just go back to that one remarkable figure in human history, Jesus Christ.

    So I will keep praying for her, and even if it seems insulting (but it isn’t) I will keep you in my prayers as well Ben. Thanks for keeping in touch.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill
    Catherine Deveney talks about the cavernous gap between the fresh faced young teenagers and the old blokes in frocks. What about the cavernous gap between these fresh faced youths and the youths depicted in our news almost daily? I am sure that those of her ilk would prefer to read front page news of scruffy faced hoons driving crazily, binge drinking, hooked on drugs and anything else which might take their fancy. This is the cavernous gap which should have prompted her to write more intelligently. I am also surprised that the Age continues to employ her, but I suppose everyone is entitled to a job. If it wasn’t for Fairfax Newspapers and the ABC where she also has a gig, who else would take her on?
    It is unfortunate that she spent the first 18 years of her life sitting in a medieval torture chamber, which I assume she means church. What she really needs is a life changing experience with Jesus Christ.
    John Broadley

  • I always find it sad when ex Catholics write articles denigrating the Faith. They seem to have the hugest chip on their shoulders. We were honoured to have young people stay with us prior to WYD in Sydney and they were an absolute joy – happy and friendly without the need of drugs or booze. These young people came from a country that suffered under communism yet they never lost their faith.
    It might do Ms. Deveny some good if she was to spend some time in one of these countries where articles such as hers would not be tolerated. As you say Bill, regardless of what garbage she writes, God is still waiting for her with open arms to welcome her back into the fold.
    Madge Fahy

  • Catherine and her ilk seem keen on anti-Christian claims like:
    • Adam and Eve didn’t exist
    • Noah’s flood never happened
    • The Earth is billions of years old, so the Bible is wrong;
    • Genesis 1 contradicts Genesis 2
    • God is a lousy designer if he designed the human eye and back, plus death, disease, parasites and tsunamis etc
    • If Jesus ever existed: his two contradictory genealogies in the Bible; the Immaculate Conception; resurrection and heaven/hell; etc, are all clearly bunkum – so forget him
    • Religion and Christianity are responsible for atrocities such as the Inquisition, Apartheid, Slavery; Crusades; and the suppression of science.

    Unfortunately many, even most, Christians avoid such challenges – perhaps because they have no response other than ‘faith’. Yet good logic, good science, good theology and accurate history can strongly refute all such anti-Christian claims.
    Historically, despite the media’s chronic denial, Christianity is the main source of: respect for life; respect for women; respect for marriage; rule of law; democracy; freedom; modern science; universities; universal education; hospitals; unions; abolition of slavery; great music, art and architecture. Conversely, atheism is responsible for enormous death and suffering.
    On the science and logic side, Catherine & Co would argue “No contest! It’s science versus faith. Science wins.” But big-bang and evolution are not real science: they are faith. Faith in unprovable assumption: that nothing exploded into everything for no reason; then dead stuff became alive against the known laws of experimental science; then upward goo-to-you evolution allegedly happens. OK, natural selection does cull the less fit – but mutations have never proved capable of producing the masses of new information necessary for upward evolution. On the contrary even ‘beneficial’ mutations prove to be a loss of information. So ‘evolution’ is actually ‘devolution’ – it causes stasis at best and extinction at worst.
    In summary, the evidence points to it being more logical to have faith in the Bible as God’s word than to have faith in big bang and evolution.
    Peter Newland

  • Hi Bill,

    Some people ask why Ms Deveny is employed by the Age. The answer in part is $$$$$. Her pieces help to sell papers. This is so important in this era of declining newspaper sales. But then again I guess you can read the Age online but the argument still stands: $$$ for readership.

    One of my past mentors, Dr Glenn Martin, taught me not to have regard for the media news but to go to the horse’ mouth.

    Greg Brien

  • Because Deveny’s columns are public I suggest the appropriate Christian response is to offer an apologetic rebuttal, lest others be led astray by her rantings. By all means pray for her too, but the option of simply ignoring her public assertions would be wrong. In fact the vast majority of Christians would and do simply ignore such writings, but where has that got us? If keeping silent in the face of such public challenges was the answer then it would have worked by now such has been the tremendous over employment of this tactic. But it hasn’t worked and Deveny is proof herself of this. Had she been given solid answers to her questions she may never have abandoned her faith.

    Actually Deveny is more honest and intellectually consistent than those of her “progressive, believing mates” who continue to believe but who have no answer to her questions about Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve, etc. The official Catholic church position of theistic evolution has no doubt contributed to many former Catholics like Deveny falling away from the faith. All churches need to stop trying to mix the false philosophy (Colossians 2:8) of evolution with Christian theology and start providing the Deveny’s of this world with real answers.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Hi Bill
    You refer to the misnamed Victorian Racial & Religious Tolerance Act. There was no need for this legislation as its alleged intent was already covered by existing law.
    This type of so called hate legislation seems to be primarily aimed at Christians as we have already seen in this State.
    In a similar vein we have a Bill of Rights which was designed to restrict freedom of speech & debate. It is no accident that the electors are never given the opportunity to vote on this type of legislation which is introduced through the back door (Law Reform Commission etc.).
    Christians should be quite willing & able to debate & defend their beliefs without being irrational & bigoted. Surely it is not too much to ask that atheists put their case in a similar manner. As to your writing Bill, it seems quite restrained.
    Peter Donald

  • Dear Bill,
    It is certainly a great concern that God and Jesus haters such as Catherine Deveny have such liberal access to the written media, and are seen as being intelligently informed beings. How tragic it is that Catherine is helping to add to the negativity in the world through her religious and spiritual ignorance. I just trust that if ever she is given insight into the reality of a living, and loving God, she will have the courage to admit to her earlier disbelief and write about her conversion as passionately as she currently writes about her disbelief.
    Keep up the good work Bill,
    Regards and blessings
    Sue Carlyon

  • Bill,

    The hellfire approach in responding to atheists is ineffective, because they want to see concrete evidence that Hell exists. Pascal’s wager is rejected because atheists simply throw it back at you: “How do you know your God is the right one?”.

    The fact is that atheism is on the increase, mostly because we have failed to present a convincing case for belief in God. Part of the reason for that is that we spend too much time bickering with each other over the interpretation and meaning of scripture. How can we present a reasoned case for God when we appear to be so divided in our beliefs?

    Young earthers for example do Christianity a lot of damage, because they portray believers as incapable of perceiving reality. I know the usual suspects here will react negatively to this, but it’s a big part of the problem. We can rail against atheism as much as we like, but until we can match them with coherent reason and logic we stand little chance of reversing the trend towards disbelief.

    Juliana Simbroski, Darwin

  • Thanks Juliana

    But you are far too defensive of atheism and far too critical of Christianity here. Indeed, you seem to be making excuses for atheists. At the end of the day, when an atheist stands before God, any excuses about, ‘hey, Christians are divided, so I did not want to come to Christ” just will not cut it. They will be fully responsible and accountable for their rejection of God.

    It is to be expected that on certain biblical topics there will be genuine debate, just as there is plenty of debate in the atheist camp over various issues. I am not aware of too many people saying, ‘I wanted to become an atheist, but I didn’t because of how divided they are’.

    The simple truth is, when Jesus presented the main reason why unbelievers do not come to Christ, he did not say it was due to Christian debates over the age of the earth. He said it was due to the fact that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

    Sure, at times Christians can unnecessarily turn off unbelievers for various reasons, and we should all strive to be as Christlike and biblical as possible to better win the lost. But the most Christlike person ever to walk the earth, Jesus Christ, was rejected by many. People who cling to sin and self refuse to come to Christ, no matter how perfectly we believers seek to represent Christ.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Juliana.
    I thought your appeal to Christians to argue their case reasonably and strongly was quite a valid call. And many of us have done just that for years and continue to do so against the likes of Dawkins et al.

    There is a very well referenced piece by John Blanchard “Does God Believe in Atheists?” that I would commend. There are numerous autobiographies of atheists who have run out of steam and faced the truth of a living personal God. (eg CS Lewis, M Muggeridge, etc).

    Bill is quite right to point out that atheists are fiercely and bitterly divided over all sorts of issues – even “young earth – old earth theories”.

    The fact that atheism may be on the increase this year does little to trouble me or convince me to look for new reasons to defend my faith in ‘the true and living God’ (1 Thess). It simply points to an age old temptation that tests and tempts us all – we want to be in control. It suits our material, political, sensory, sexual and intellectual accounts to do what we want. Some call it hedonism and others call it intellectual freedom. Whatever they call it, it’s spitting in the face of God which is very risky business.

    I have no trouble believing in a God whose character I find transparently plastered over the whole world, physical, social, moral, philosophical, etc. Yes, I also see the imperfections and the chaos we have created of His world by our self-centred domination. But through it all, I have no trouble seeing a loving, personal God who still holds off to give us a chance to respond to his call on our lives before he blows the full-time whistle!

    The debates and division that so trouble you are no surprise. It’s part of God’s common grace to every human that we have the capacity to think, to create our own ideas (crazy or not), to choose evil over good (or vice versa), to deny what others proclaim as truth. They’re poor reasons to stake a claim to being bigger, stronger and smarter and better than the eternal, holy, awesome, Creator God.

    I applaud your concern for plausible, searching, reasoned responses. I find your reasons less than compelling.

    Regards

    Bob Johnston

  • Juliana, If you read Deveny’s article she actually lists some of her unanswered questions. Two of those I mentioned above concerning Noah’s Ark and Adam and Eve, directly relate to Genesis history. Presumably she rejected the Catholic church teaching on these subjects which is that the Flood if it happened was not global and that Adam and Eve may or may not have been real individuals. Most atheists are intelligent enough to recognise obfuscation when they hear it and rightly conclude that if the Bible can’t be trusted concerning earthly things then why should they believe anything it says concerning heavenly things?

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Hi Juliana,

    You write “until we can match them with coherent reason and logic” Well, my experience is rather different. Most atheists I have encountered have this in common – biased views on God, and certainly a consistent refusal to respond to reason if it will challenge their cherished beliefs. They must be open to change their hearts first.

    Catherine Deveny’s articles are great examples of this – the article that is the subject of this blog is particularly stupid, and the arguments in it would be torn to shreds by any knowledgable Christian in minutes, given the chance.

    “Reason and logic”? No. Why do you give atheists such credit when they often do so poorly or are intellectually dishonest? For example, witness how easily Dawkins’ arguments are turned back on him.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QERyh9YYEis

    As far as your ongoing campaign against a young earth is concerned, I can only challenge you that you have bought into speculative ideas far too easily. My father was a non-creationist scientist, and I was challenged numerous times whilst growing up about the subject. My overall conclusion is rather simple now, and also helps diffuse some of the emotionalism associated with the subject. And it is this – no-one can speak about this subject with any authority, no matter what their qualifications, because they were not there. Five million Ph.Ds or Nobel Prize laureates would not impress me.

    Except – we do have the words of One who was – and, unlike other religious leaders, proved His authority. When Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve, (and oddly enough, marriage between a man and woman as well – which speaks to another subject you have written about) it was not a parable nor allegorical nor as a ‘picture’. Jesus claimed to have existed before time, and showed His power over nature by performing miracles and raising Himself from the dead. (add to this His unique way of founding the Christian church, which stands in stark contrast to other systems of belief – which is the other problem you raise) Now, I might be wrong in believing the chronology of the Bible as it is presented and understood most clearly, but I’ll let God be the one to tell me that (possibly when I go upstairs), and certainly not people who want to reject Him. (And, btw, I would reject the rebuttal that this is merely an argument appealing to authority – I know it is – but in the case of Jesus I feel quite at ease making the exception.)

    In the meantime, those who claim they know about the age of the earth should be challenged to find me “concrete evidence” themselves. (I consider that an ‘extraordinary claim’ so let’s have some extraordinary evidence!) Eyewitnesses, please. It’s only fair.

    No? Then maybe some humility and circumspection may be in order. All ideas about origins are going to have substantial elements of faith in them. The emotional response so often associated with this subject is really just strong evidence for the spiritual battle behind it. I mean – and here’s a really good question for every individual to consider – why does it matter so much?

    Meanwhile, Catherine Deveny can stop (as Bill has written) throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The problems of the Church are in essence not new (witness what was going on when Jesus walked the earth and the daft disciples He actually chose – including Judas Iscariot!) but do not detract from the truth of Christianity.

    John 1:1-5
    Matthew 19:4-6
    Mark 4:35-41
    John 8:58

    Mark Rabich

  • Bill and others,

    My point was that there is little to be gained by telling atheists that they are going to hell, or by regarding all atheists as being in the Dawkins mould. Most atheists I meet in work and social situations do not even call themselves atheists, they just say they don’t believe there is a God, or are “non religious”.

    I think it is unhelpful to label atheists as evil sinners or to characterise them as if they belong to some pagan religion with a recognised dogma. Most of them don’t meet in groups to discuss their unbelief or sing atheist hymns. In my experience, most atheists are people who were at least exposed to a Christian upbringing but have simply drifted away for one reason or another. The trend towards unbelief is therefore likely to increase with each generation.

    If we hope to reverse this trend, we need better arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity. The old ways just don’t seem to be working.

    Juliana Simbroski, Darwin

  • I was talking about this blog to a Christian the other day, who is a big fan and is the one who put me onto it. I must admit the first thing that strikes me about your posting style is the acerbic tone perpetuated throughout it.

    It’s hard to divine your motivations Bill because while you call upon Christians to love non-believers, “loving” is the last word I would use to describe the tone in your posts. I’m not an atheist or a Christian but I find this blog very polarising in that way.

    Chris Tavistock

  • Thanks Juliana

    But no one here has been arguing for hellfire and name calling, so why your objections? I did mention that the realities of hell are part of the total biblical discussion on this issue, but I also suggested that there are other aspects to the Christian arsenal in dealing with atheists and their objections.

    You seem oblivious to two thousand years of Christian apologetics. Whether we go back to Augustine, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, or to modern day intellects such as Lewis, Zacharias, Craig, Plantinga, Geisler and Schaeffer, there has always been a rich, consistent and effective defence of biblical Christianity based on reason, evidence, logic and compelling argumentation. Have you read any of these thinkers?

    So I am not exactly sure what your concerns are here. Your claim that we must move on from “old ways” and come up with “better arguments” is curious. What exactly do you have in mind? Do you have something better to replace two millennia of Christian apologetics?

    We can always improve in this area, and mistakes have been made in the past. But you again seem to side more with the unbelievers than believers here as you somewhat superficially dismiss the efforts of so many to uphold Christian truth claims and take on the intellectual and philosophical challenges to the faith.

    And at the risk of appearing to toot my own horn, I would like to think that the 900 articles on this site offer a fair amount of well-reasoned and intelligently argued material which interacts with the atheist and secular humanist challenges and objections.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Chris

    As I told James, it is not my intention to be offensive, and I can always improve in my presentation. And as I also told James, I do covet the prayers of others to help me get this right. But I do think that bad ideas – of which there are many – must strongly be resisted. Nazism, for example, was a horrible idea, and a strong challenge to it – maybe even an acerbic one – may not be out of place.

    Just one query however. What do you have in mind when you say this site is polarising? In one sense it of necessity has to be. It is arguing that there is such a thing as truth, and therefore there is such a thing as falsehood. It argues that there is good, and that there is evil. And it stands for the Christian truth claims. All these things are by definition polarising.

    Jesus constantly polarised those he spoke to, and we are often told that the crowds were divided because of what he said. And he of course was the most loving man around.

    I make no claim to being as loving as Jesus, although I do seek God’s help in becoming more loving and Christlike. But I think it will be difficult not to be polarising, if I, or anyone else, seeks to follow Jesus in proclaiming his inherently divisive message.

    But thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi again Juliana.

    I think you may be confusing atheism with a whole cluster of other worldviews that are out there amongst the populace. Just because a person professes unbelief does not make them atheist. Just because adults drift away from the teachings of their childhood does not make them atheist. Just because they are in reaction against the organized church doesn’t make them atheist.

    There is a great flow chart on this subject that you might find useful in sorting through the maze of alternatives: http://www.feva.org/pdf/world_view.pdf.

    The great majority of Aussie non-believers would be ‘popular pluralists’ who want their own version of spirituality and no spiritual obligation. They want to be free to do as they please – to be in control. But what they don’t realise is that this position is indefensible. It claims the ‘high ground’ by saying that every religion must be wrong or must at least give ground on every issue of difference. They claim this position on the basis that they will give no ground in simply declaring that there is no God, at least none worth thinking about.

    These people are not atheists. They don’t deserve that status, because they don’t even want to think or reason. They are simply hybrids, homogenised, confused and ignorant. You might find Google searching John Dickson on worldviews and world religions well worth the time.

    God bless

    Bob Johnston

  • Chris, if you are not a Christian then you have most likely imbibed the spirit of the age which is relativism and a false tolerance. If so then all truth claims will appear to you as polarising or exclusive.

    Also as a non-Christian I wonder how you even define ‘love’? Allowing a person to continue in their deception which will end in destruction is not loving according to the Christian definition.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Bill thanks for opening up this subject. I feel you have been gracious and loving in all your comments and I thank God for the wonderful mission you are engaged in here. May God continue to richly bless you and yours. I wondered if this information about origins, Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel dispersal after the Global Flood judgement etc. would be appropriate here? The photos of these twins are just stunning and should melt even the most hardened and jaded heart and give cause for people to reexamine their presuppositions and think deeply on these important issues. I pray that one day Catherine may view these photos and consider the truth expressed. Unfortunately many people set up a straw man or cartoon version of Christianity and hide behind this and refuse to engage in the reality of our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, Almighty God and Prince of Peace.

    There are no different ‘so called races’ just people groups wilh varying amounts of melanin in their skin pigmentation. For example look at these two toned twins.
    http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/5622
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/07/19/news-to-note-07192008
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v3/n2/twins-black-and-white

    Jennifer Parfenovics

  • Thank you Mark Rabich, for that beautiful Dawkins send-up.

    I have read Catherine Deveney’s rant -twice- and I am in sympathy with what she says. I am also against empty religion and empty religious ceremony. Perhaps many atheists are as a consequence of being made to believe in things which just do not hold up to adult scrutiny. Christian faith, however is rooted in historical fact. If it not, then what we have is religion.

    Very often atheists, whilst ignoring their own sinful natures, are passionate for this or that cause for justice, which is often a projection onto others of some injustice that might have experienced when young. We need to point them to the greatest injustice ever committed which was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. One of the thieves, hanging on a cross next to Jesus rightly said: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

    David Skinner, UK

  • Hi Juliana,

    I believe you have expressed yourself extremely well in relation to increasing atheism and the failure of the Christian messsage being presented in a meaningful and practical manner that people relate to. Jesus is about teaching us to understand our spiritual self and our connection to a living and mighty Creator God and how our thoughts words attitudes actions and reactions impact not only on our self, but on those we come in contact with. It is therefore the responsibility of Christian leaders and educators to impart this information and lead by example. This is where the breakdown in knowledge of God based on truth has broken down, and this is why we do need a fresh and truthful approach to religious and spiritual knowledge.
    Cheers and blessings
    Sue Carlyon
    Independent Pastoral Care
    Hobart, Tas.

  • As a Christian, if a Muslim told you that Mohammad was the final, authoritative prophet of God, you would believe that he was wrong. You may even feel compelled to tell him so.

    As an atheist, if a Christian tells me that Christ was God made flesh, I believe that he is wrong. I might even be compelled to tell him so.

    What is the difference (other than the fact that I happen to be right)?

    Who are you to mock Allah and Mohammad with your foolish disbelief?

    All you have is the argument “my religion is true because my religion tells me it’s true.” When that fails, you argue that atheists should respect Christian beliefs because beliefs are somehow sacred. Even though a Christian does not believe in the holy tenants of the Koran. How is your disbelief in the truth of the Koran different or more respectful from my disbelief?

    Craig Nickerson

  • In my experience at university, atheists are as an intolerant as they claim chrstians are. The only question that they can be confronted with is “What if you are wrong” and their response is usually “what if you are wrong”.

    My reply is “That is OK with me as if I am wrong I have wasted 70 years. If you are wrong you have lost eternity so it doesn’t take much intelligence to know who is making the biggest gamble. Whether you accept the concept of eternity or not, you still have to answer the question “what if you are wrong.”

    The bottom line is that they do have to confront the question of what if they are wrong.

    Roger Marks

  • Bill (and others),

    In the following, I hope you will pardon the language which no doubt will come off as hostile. It is not my intention to start a debate, and chances are I will not be back, owing to my very limited time. Yet I did want to suggest some food for thought, at the very least.

    First, in your second comment answering Juliana, you stated, “[B]ut no one here has been arguing for hellfire and namecalling…” In fact, you did. In your post you commend it as one of three “biblical and proper” approaches, and cite it as being based on the way scripture views atheism. Indeed, of your three suggested approaches, it is the only one in your article which explicitly carries that distinction. If that is not at least tacit approval, then I don’t know what is.

    Second, like you, I once endeavored to live up to 1 Peter 3:15. In fact, it was through that attempt that I was exposed to Augustine, Aquinas, Martyr, Irenaeus, and Eusebius (among those of antiquity), as well as McDowell, Zacharias, Craig, Plantinga, Swinburne, Wright and many others with varying degrees of notoriety. Along with this, I studied the Bible fervently and prayerfully, because I was thoroughly convinced that if, in fact, the Bible was the product of divinity, then surely it would stand up to the most rigorous scrutiny. But it didn’t. In fact, it was through these intense studies that I came to precisely the opposite conclusion.

    My point, for it is a very simple one, is that different people may approach faith and scripture in very similar ways, and with synchronicity of purpose, yet come to different conclusions. Atheists do not believe in God, and many (though not all, to be sure) for very good reasons having nothing to do with bitterness, anger, depression, or any other stereotypical reason often discussed in Christian circles.

    Third, no proposition should be exempt from critical examination, and criticism of a more general nature. Religion is no exception. If you feel that it is (and I don’t know you do), then the proper descriptive label for you would be dogmatist. I do hope that is not the case.

    Finally (as time is now short), I’d like to say that I’d very much like to meet God, assuming, for the sake of argument, s/he exists. And if that God is the same God of which I’ve read so many times in the Bible, s/he is not worthy of worship, in my opinion. There are a host of reasons for this not related to any experiences of mine, but all of which are related to scripture itself. But what would I do, given that opportunity? I would deny Him my worship. But, that is my opinion and, according to virtually every living Christian (and scripture), earns me a place among the damned, tortured for eternity for the crime of non-belief.

    Naturally, I doubt the whole proposition.

    You will hold to your opinions about your God, and I will hold to mine, but do not assume that atheism only proceeds from a dishonest, angry, depressed, or uninformed position. If your God exists and will roast people for eternity because they could not bring themselves to accept scripture, for whatever reason, then your God is a self-absorbed sadist, nothing more.

    Thank you for the wee bit of web space you’ve allowed me to express this, and I wish you all well.

    JC Samuelson

  • Roger
    You are taking an awful gamble in not embracing Islam. If you are wrong you not only waste 70 years or so, you also face the eternal wrath of Allah.
    Good luck.
    Craig Nickerson

  • Thanks Craig

    Different religions – including secular ones – make various truth claims. They speak about that which is ultimately real, about issues of right and wrong, about the human predicament and its solution, about where we came from and where are heading, and so on.

    These various claims can be weighed and assessed and compared. Some are obviously mutually exclusive, so if one is true, its opposite must be false. We are all on a journey to find truth and meaning. Thus a real seeker will check out the various truth claims being offered, and make a choice as to which might be most coherent, credible and corresponding to the real world. People do that all the time.

    I am obviously arguing for the truthfulness of the Christian worldview, after having been involved in numerous non-Christian religions and worldviews. I think it stands the test of rationality, congruence with reality, and coherence. I have also had a life-changing encounter with the risen Christ. Thus I am keen to tell others about the good news. I am seeking to convince others of the credibility and reality of Christ and his claims.

    That is what this website is about. You are welcome to examine the arguments which I and others offer, or reject them. That is what living in a pluralistic culture is all about.

    It is not a question of blind faith, but of examining the evidence, weighing up the options, and making an informed choice as to what is true. We do that on a smaller scale every day, as for example when we walk down a supermarket aisle.

    Obviously with the more important choices we all must make as to who we are, what it truth, and our eternal destiny, it is all the more vital that we be open and genuine seekers, and diligently search after truth. My search brought me to Christianity, and I want to share that discovery with others.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Juliana,
    I grew up an agnostic evolutionist. As an adult I became a Christian. I defended evolution as God’s means of creation. After years of reading, including subscribing to an aggressively anti-creation magazine, I became a ‘Biblical creationist’. After all, the Bible claims that God created the heavens and the earth in six day; and that it is God’s infallible word. Add some arithmetic to get creation about 4,000BC.

    But billions of years of evolution contradict the Bible. Can we teach that the Bible means what it says? Can we teach that the Bible ‘means what it means’ – i.e. reinterpret the Bible to agree with ‘perceived reality’? Whatever our answer, we should defend the truth of the Bible as we see it. If not, we lose the battle by default because: ‘Science disproves the Bible; the gospel is myth’. Isn’t denial of creation the main attack against the gospel now? As Luther wrote: “If I profess … every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ … ”

    The Catholic Church’s official teaching accepts evolution. Is that why Catherine and so many intelligent and articulate ex-Catholics are atheists pushing their anti-Christian views? That is a logical response to concluding that the church is conning us with myths. I think our logic and science are better if we defend Genesis 1-11 as true history (e.g see CreationOnTheWeb). You disagree? Then: argue that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says; or, remain silent and concede the battle.

    Peter Newland

  • Thanks JC

    What can I say? If all that you claim is accurate, then you have evidently been a Christian, have known the truth of the Gospel, but have now rejected it. Sadly, that is your choice. I cannot force you to do anything of course. I can pray for you, which I will. But our choices really do determine our eternal destiny.

    But your most telling remarks come in the paragraph about what you think of God. The God of the Bible is worthy of all praise and honour and glory. You obviously disagree strongly. So at the end of the day we have the creator of the universe and his self-estimation, and a creature with his estimation of the creator.

    Of course all sorts of people have rejected the God of the Bible. In their eyes God is not good enough or just enough or whatever. With all due respect, that means we are remaking God in our own image. It means that the creature is assuming that he is in a position to judge the creator, that he has some moral and epistemological standard by which to judge God.

    A Christian would argue that God himself is the source of what is true and false, right and wrong. For us to stand over God in judgment would be the height of pride and arrogance. As Isaiah puts it, it is like the clay telling the potter that he is just not up to the task (Isaiah 29:16).

    But as I say, the choice is up to you. For the time being you appear to have rejected your creator, redeemer and judge. That is a very serious decision indeed, but one which all of us with our free will can make. So it sounds like there may not be much for me to say to convince you otherwise. But I will continue to pray for you. Thanks for sharing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Craig

    Yes both Muslims and Christians believe in an afterlife, and each thinks that their way of getting to heaven or paradise is the correct one. So as I said, it is a question of looking at the claims of each and making an evaluation. On many key points they violently disagree. So if Islam is true, say on the question of Jesus and his death and resurrection, then Christianity is obviously false, and vice versa. But a genuine seeker will examine each, and decide as to the validity and credibility of the truth claims being offered. He may reject both. But given the importance of the issues, a careful search is in order.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The arrogance of people who cite Pascal’s Wager (if I believe in God and I’m wrong, I lose nothing, whereas etc etc) is overwhelming sometimes. They seem to be suggesting they know the mind of God. What rubbish.

    And as for Bill’s comment:

    “Hell is real, and those who reject God and the work of Christ will tragically find themselves there, and without excuse. ”

    I imagine that the people who lived before Christ, or still live in places so remote as to have never heard of him, have a rather large excuse. Oh well, burn them all anyway.

    MJ Smith

  • I have always referred to myself as non religious as apposed to atheist. Having said that though, I do have an interest in the history of religion’s and religious philosophy’s but not for the same reason as theists. I also have an interest in other people views of the world. I have always held the view that we are free to believe in or practice whatever we want as long as it does not adversely affect someone else. This is not to say that they are immune from comment or debate though.

    There are some practical elements of religions that I do find disturbing/annoying and effect my life directly. For one, a door knock at 9am on a Sunday morning invariably revels people dressed in suits or a gathering wanting to pray with me. Why? I did not invite them? How do they know I am at all interested? Would they like it if I knocked on their door with a box full of fossils? (Maybe their kids would??). We then have someone of the exclusive brethren at my daughters kindergarten and she is not allowed to sit with the other kids while they eat snacks. Why? Why impose this type of elitism on such young children. Then we can get to the RE program that is run in my sons secular primary school. I think the Anglicans are in charge of it?? The state policy is that children who do not attend are removed from class and were sitting there doing nothing for half an hour. I found this discriminatory and completely unsatisfactory. I have since encouraged the school to change their policy on this.

    I know this topic is how to deal with Atheists but it is a two way street. I am still not sure if I should say something to the exclusive brethren?? I am interested in knowing why the kids cannot sit at the same table.

    Bill, thanks for starting the thread. It has been interesting.

    Ben Green

  • Thanks MJ

    Pascal’s Wager is admittedly far from perfect, and it is certainly not the whole basis of the case for Christian truth claims.

    As to your other concern, the biblical position is that people are already condemned, not just because they have rejected Christ and the Gospel (although that is true for those who do hear it and reject it). The biblical position, as found in Romans 1-2, for example, is that we all have enough knowledge about God based on his general revelation of himself in the created world around us, and our moral sense, or conscience. Yet we still reject God anyway. We seek to put ourselves in the place of the creator. We seek to act as God. That may in fact be the real sin, which makes us guilty before God, and worthy of judgment.

    The Biblical position is that we are all sinners already, and unless there is some outside help, we are all in big trouble. The biblical position is that outside help has come in the form of God becoming flesh, and actually taking upon himself the punishment that we justly deserve. So the real issue is not that any will experience eternal punishment, but why any will not avail themselves of the only means of escaping that. Jesus Christ has done everything possible for us to have our love relationship with the father restored. If we reject that, then we really do seal our own fate.

    That is why Christians are – or should be – so eager to tell everyone the good news of why Jesus came and what he did on our behalf, so that we might escape our fate. If God had done nothing about our predicament, then we might have something to complain about. But the truth is, Jesus gave his very life for us, so that we can get out of our dilemma. Thus we now really have no excuse or cause for complaint.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • But I’m sorry Bill, you now write “Jesus Christ has done everything possible for us to have our love relationship with the father restored. If we reject that, then we really do seal our own fate.”

    But what about people who lived before Christ? Has God condemned these people to Hellfire simply because he didn’t get around to making himself flesh until around 2,000 years ago (after about 100,000 to 200,000 years of homo sapiens existing, if the experts are to be believed).

    My question is “what about these people?” A just God, in my view, would not condemn these people to Hell.

    MJ Smith

  • Think to yourself why you are not a Buddhist. I assume that all the written works of Buddha were not enough to make you believe what he was telling you. Although Buddha is a historically real figure, something about his scriptures, which are eleven times longer than the Bible, must not have been convincing enough.

    Now imagine someone from Thailand, or Tibet, reading the Bible and somehow not quite believing what is inside, and while acknowledging the possible existence of Jesus, just not quite being able to reconcile it with their culture, their world etc.

    These two examples illustrate why all religions are obviously false. To claim Christianity to be superior to Buddhism is a kind of cultural imperialism, and to claim that someone who grew up in Australia is somehow ‘choosing’ to be a Christian and not just accepting the majority religious view is equally silly. Religion is a matter of geography, nothing more.

    I can’t imagine you, Bill, read the Koran or the Pali cannon along with the Bible and then weighed them all up and chose the best one. No, you chose the most common one in your culture, and made it seem the best, the most right, the only true faith.

    That is why every religious person is also an atheist at some level, in this day and age of information on other religions being so freely available.

    Paul Miranda, Tokyo, Japan.

  • Thanks MJ

    Several responses about those who have never heard. The biblical principle is that God judges people according to the knowledge or light that they have. The more light (or revelation, or knowledge) one has, the more guilty one is.

    People living before Christ of course could not respond to Jesus, but they could respond to God’s revelation at the time. Thus Abraham (who lived long before Christ) believed God’s revelation of himself, and that faith saved him.

    God has always left a witness of himself in this world (Acts 14:17). And as I said, we have enough general knowledge of God to accept the fact that God exists, yet we reject that knowledge.

    Finally, if people are genuinely concerned about the plight of those people today who have not heard the message of Christ, my advice would be to first of all respond to the Gospel oneself, and then go and tell as many people as possible. That has been the history of the Christian church for the last 2,000 years.

    Just as we now have evangelists and apologists for atheism, who feel compelled to share their gospel with others, the true Christian will want to share far and wide the good news of the Gospel. And with all due respect, the most important thing right now for you is what you will do with Jesus. You have heard the Gospel. Your response is the most critical thing at this point. But the questions you ask are fair enough and worth answering. Thanks again.

    (And hey, I’m getting sore typing fingers from seeking to answer so many people here!)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I am intrigued by your position on hell and prayer. First you assert hell to be ‘real’ but we all know there is no evidence for it. Well, I know many religious take biblical passages as ‘evidence’ so I amend, we all know there is no physical evidence for it. Your assertion is nothing more. But suppose you are correct and hell is, in fact real. And suppose you are also correct that prayer may be efficacious. You take an apparently generous stand of praying ‘for’ non-believes like myself. But your prayers are all in the form of desiring a change in us. Has it not occurred to you that you might petition your lord to forgo the pleasure of eternal torture of those who don’t know him, rather than earnestly requiring that we change in order to escape such a fate? That you do not do so reveals to me that it is your own desire that we be placed in hell—not god’s. Surely a heartfelt appeal from one so beloved as yourself would soften the deity’s heart in regards to us slackers. In fact, if all Christians were to fervently prey for it, perhaps god would unmake hell. If you can’t abide the thought of not getting your special afterlife reward, at least you could prompt god to allow the rest of us to merely snuff out, as we believe we will. Or is there something about the notion of eternal pain for others while you lounge about in heaven that appeals to you?
    Jamie Scott

  • Thanks Paul

    “Religion is a matter of geography, nothing more.” But your case for the cultural relativism of religious belief (a person born in India will be a Hindu, and person born in Pakistan a Muslim, etc.) is not very convincing and is easily answered.

    First, many people have rejected the religion of their upbringing, upon considering the alternatives. Conversions from one religion to another take place all the time. If religious truth claims and beliefs are nothing more than the result of one’s geography, then one could say the same about atheism: an atheist is simply someone who was born in an atheist environment. There are no compelling intellectual reasons why one would be an atheist – it is all just an accident of birth.

    And why can’t you imagine my spiritual pilgrimage? Call me a liar if you like (which is not much of an argument), but I did seriously study various religious texts (eg, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tibetian Book of the Dead, and so on) before I converted to Christianity. And I still have my three copies of the Koran.

    My experience with many different religious systems and worldviews was part of my religious quest, and my search for truth. Christianity was for me the most fully satisfying, coherent and truthful worldview; and a life-changing experience with Christ provided experiential conformation of my intellectual choice.

    That may surprise or puzzle you, but it has been the experience of millions of people the world over, many of whom were raised as atheists or non-Christians.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Jamie

    But you misunderstand God, the reason why Jesus came, and the nature of prayer, for starters. If God is God, he calls the shots, not me. If he has decided that those who reject him will have their own way, and live apart from a loving and just God forever (which in one sense is what hell is all about), then I am not about to tell him that he is wrong, and that I know better or can do things better.

    And Jesus, the most loving person who ever lived, was absolutely convinced about the reality of hell, and warned those who rejected him that hell would be their fate. And he expected his followers to accept this belief as well.

    God may be God, but that does not mean he can do that which is logically impossible. He cannot decide that it is a good thing to create us with free will (which is what a love relationship requires) and at the same time guarantee that I will not use my free will to reject him. Nor can a holy and just God simply turn a blind eye to injustice, evil and sin. It must be dealt with.

    God does not delight in anyone’s torment, and neither do I. Consider an illustration: If, despite the warnings of a loving and concerned doctor, a person refuses his advice and smokes three packs of cigs a day, he will probably suffer from lung cancer and die an early death. The doctor warned him, but he made up his own mind on the issue.

    So too those who reject God and think they are better qualified to run the universe will find there are consequences to their choices, both in this life, and in the life to come. Bad choices have bad consequences. Hell (the absence of God forever) is the only sensible place for those who tell God all their earthly life that they want nothing to do with him, and wish he weren’t around.

    And Jesus came for the simple reason that he wants us to escape the fate of hell. “God does not want anyone to perish, but wants all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God has done everything possible for you and I to return to him, and have our broken relationship restored. If that is not acceptable to us, then God is left with no other options.

    When I rejected Christ, people prayed for me. They prayed that my heart would be softened, that my pride would be squashed, that I would see my need of a saviour, and that I would freely return to my heavenly father. I am glad they did, because now I am a follower of Jesus.

    I pray the same for other non-believers. Neither I nor God can coerce anyone. He wants us to love him freely, just as any parent wants the loving response of a son or a daughter, not an automatic response of a robot.

    I hope this helps a bit to explain our position. Thanks for writing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • MJ Smith, the Bible says that after death comes the judgment before Jesus Himself. So we will all confront Jesus. Those who lived before He lived on earth, and those who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel for whatever reason, will be excused or accused by their own consciences as they come face to face with Jesus. He knows our heart tendencies when we had the choice while we had life on earth. So we seal our own fate by our choice in life. After death comes the Judgement and we will be held to our decisions in life. End of story. Jesus is Just.
    Peter Newland

  • Those who would accuse God of being vindictive and sadistic use themselves as a reference point, just as Eve was tempted to do in the Garden of Eden. They automatically assume that God is driven by less than noble motives. When we burn garden rubbish or get rid of garbage, do we turn up at the town tip with rage? No, we are concentrating on and thinking about the order and beauty that we are in the act of creating in our homes. People would think we were barmy if, in the decoration of a house or garden, we lovingly retained the filth and muck. Both cannot exist in the same space. They have to be separated. The amazing thing is that God loves the filth and muck, so much so that he sent His son to personally pay the bill for redeeming it.
    If Christians are approaching atheists from a high moral and judgmental platform they are making a big mistake. We are merely watchmen on the wall. Our duty is to sound the alarm, clearly and unequivocally. Nothing more. How people respond is not our responsibility, but that of the Holy Spirit. Sadly many of us have become indifferent to the fate of those around us; we have ourselves lost a view of a Holy God and a destiny without Him. If our evangelism falls on deaf ears it is because we ourselves have become dulled and blinded by this world.
    Paul, if religion were a matter of geography, Christianity, Islam and atheism would be confined to Christian, Islamic and atheistic countries, but they are not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions
    David Skinner, UK

  • Paul Miranda,
    Have you seriously read the Bible and checked its credentials? What other book has a god who is alive, loving and just? Or claims to give an authoritative rational historical and spiritual account of the origin of the universe; life; death, suffering?
    Many try, and fail, to discredit the Bible historically. OK, ‘miracles’ don’t fit with experimental science, but experimental science has no logical explanation or witnesses re how dead stuff became alive or how evolution miraculously went upwards from pond-scum to philosopher. In contrast the Bible says God created life. Consistent with this, thousands of early Christians were willing to stake their lives that Jesus could raise the dead and was himself raised from the dead. This belief was so strong that secular historians record the essentials of Christianity and the fact that within about 30 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection there were so many Christians in Rome that Nero blamed them for the Fire of Rome. That’s compelling contemporary evidence that the Bible is about historical reality rather than religious mumbo jumbo.
    Peter Newland

  • I am not a gambling man Craig that is why I embrace the one true God. Allah doesn’t bother me because he doesn’t exist (except in the minds of those who have been blinded by Satan). It is lovely to read of thousands of Muslims converting to faith in Christ on a regulsr basis, despite the fact that they can be killed by their own kind for doing so. What a lovely religion they have – belief by force.
    Roger Marks

  • If, as is claimed throughout this article and the following comments, those that do not embrace Him fully will languish for eternity in Hell (a punishment I wouldn’t wish on anyone), what of those who live in such seclusion that they will not hear His word? And if to embrace God requires a conscious decision between believing in Him and not, what of the countless people who die before they have the chance to decide? Or those born or rendered so disabled that they are unable to make such a choice?
    Matt Sherman

  • Thanks Matt

    But if you carefully read all my responses here you will see that I have already dealt with these objections several times. God is gracious and merciful and just, and will judge people according to the light they have, and their ability to respond to that light.

    The only people who find themselves in hell will be those who deserve to be there. Again, if one is concerned about the fate of the lost, one should start sounding the alarm.

    I repeat, babies (both born and unborn), the mentally infirm, and those unable to respond to God’s revelation will come under his mercy. What we are mainly talking about here are those who are fully able to acknowledge God, but have rejected him nonetheless.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Matt Sherman do you think that a perfectly just God has no answer to these questions? What about aborted babies? You limit God’s knowledge of every human heart to that of human knowledge. By definition God is omniscient, infinite. But I sense that you pose the question in order to draw attention away from yourself. What is it to you what happens to others? The important thing is that if you have heard and understood the message of Christ – how will you respond?
    David Skinner, UK

  • Bill,

    This has certainly turned into a lively debate!

    Some of the earlier responses to my previous post suggested that there may be different views here on the meaning on the word “atheist”. I regard it in the sense of the word itself, meaning not a believer. Others seem to suggest it refers only to activists for atheism, or those who base their unbelief on deep and considered thought. Which meaning do you support?

    You mention some of the great Christian apologists and ask if I have read them. While I wouldn’t claim to read as many books as you seem to (I doubt that many Christians would), I do consider myself well educated on these matters, especially on early Christian writings.

    As for my original questions, you misjudge me. The fact is that people in the West are turning away from Christianity for one reason or another. So the existence of “two thousand years of Christian apologetics” is clearly not having the desired effect, irrespective of your suggestion that I am oblivious to such material. Isn’t this shooting the messenger?

    As for your own articles on this blog, they certainly comprise a wealth of material. But with the greatest of respect, your emphasis seems largely confined to criticising the world and seeking out its darkest corners for evidence that the world is on the verge of destruction. We see very little of the good things in life, especially the Christian life. Your pieces, while they obviously preach to a particular choir, would hardly convince a nonbeliever that they are on the wrong track. Where in your articles is anything of the joie de vivre of being a Christian?

    Juliana Simbroski, Darwin

  • If we are as God made us, what justice is there in punishing those who were made such that they do not (can not) believe in Him? Supposing He is indeed omniscient, would He not have prior knowledge of the fate of all people, and therefore the fact that he had created some people specifically to fill the coffers of Hell?
    Matt Sherman

  • “If god really wanted us to believe in him, he’d exist”… Linda Smith.
    Love. Paul O’Neill

  • Thanks Juliana

    Yes it certainly has been bubbling along nicely, all at the expense of my sore typing fingers.

    As to defending this website, it may be better for someone else to do that. I might be biased, after all. But a few remarks if I may. At the end of the day, I will be answerable to God for what he has called me to do. For the time being, this site is part of what I have been called to do. Thus I will seek to do it to the best of my ability, with His help.

    What I do is not everyone’s calling. We all have a part to play. And of course I am not called to do everything. My calling is a bit of that of the watchman, as in Ez. 3 and 33: a sort of prophetic role. I am also very conscious of a war going on, with the stakes being very high indeed. If this site appears not to be a barrel of laughs and frivolity, well, one can always go elsewhere. And I suspect critics thought Jeremiah and Isaiah were a pretty dour lot.

    As to the effectiveness or otherwise of 2000 years of apologetics, or the spread of the faith, in one sense my reply is, so what? No one has ever claimed that the faith would please everyone, or that all would find the Gospel message acceptable.

    You seem to imply that if we just get our methods right, or change our presentation style, people will flock to the faith out of atheism and other beliefs. But Scripture says there is much more at play here, including some heavy duty counter forces, such as sin, the flesh and the devil.

    esus was constantly rejected by his listeners, although he was without doubt the best example of God’s love and of effective evangelism. People will always reject the Christian faith for a variety of reason. Ultimately it is because people prefer sin and self to laying down their arms. Yet God continues to build his church.

    As I say, I am trying, however imperfectly, to do what I feel called to do. I often wish that for every time a fellow believer criticised me, that they would pray for me as well: that sure would make my load a lot easier.

    But thanks again for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Juliana you originally said that we have failed to present a convincing case for belief in God and that until we can match atheists with coherent reason and logic we stand little chance of reversing the trend towards atheism. Well the one who understands more than any human being that God exists is Satan. Reason and logic are of no use to him. It comes down to will. In the same way that psychiatrists and therapists can get their patients to fully understand the consequences of their terrible addictions, and yet still have the patient recklessly plunge down the Gadarene slop, no amount of endless debate, reason and logic will have any effect on a heart completely hardened towards the Holy Spirit. Only God’s grace can do that

    The greatest apologist ever was Jesus Christ who was forever engaging those around him with reasoned debate which often only hardened the hearts of his hearers. Bill is only following the example of His master. Christ’s message was not “joie do vivre” on earth but praying that His Father’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. How he wept over Jerusalem. His message of hope was set against a world that was doomed. Juliana, the party is not here, as a current chorus goes, but in Heaven.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks Matt

    But there is a huge difference between cannot and will not. If I fall unconscious at the wheel, and run a red light and kill another person, my guilt is negligible. But if I deliberately run a light and kill someone, my guilt is immense. I have already dealt with those who cannot respond, so we are talking here about those who can.

    And may I ask, where do you get your sense of justice and right and wrong from? These concepts make perfect sense from a biblical point of view. Moral laws exist because there is a moral law giver. God is just, and because we are made in his image, we share his concerns for justice. But because of sin, we tend to treat others unjustly.

    But if we are merely rearranged pond scum, then talk of justice is meaningless. Crap just happens, and that is the way it goes.

    And the fact of divine foreknowledge in no way takes away a person’s personal responsibility. I may know my son so well that I can pretty much predict what he might do, yet he is still responsible for his choices.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I don’t know where Matt Sherman got the idea that we are as God made us? if we were, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on calvary. The reason he did is due to the fact that we are not how God made us. Before Adam and his wife (see note) sinned, they were as God made them without knowledge of good and evil because they didn’t need to know as neither concept existed for them. Once they did know good and evil they had to make choices. Currently we have decided we don’t need God, we can do it all ourselves, and as a result have made ourselves the arbiters of what is right and wrong.

    That is why we have over 40,000 cases of child abuse a year and rising. We have chosen to live by our bankrupt immorality where anything goes rather than live by God’s tried and tested proven morality with sensible boundaries that protects the innocent.

    NOTE:
    Wife – a female person who is legally married and committed to a male person.
    Partner – (1) a person who is in a business relationship with another person. (2) someone who wants to hide the nature of their relationship with another person.

    Roger Marks

  • Are we really expected to take seriously all this talk of hardened God-haters running riot with poisonous tongues, flailing at religions and turning out their anti-Christian bigotry..? Should I take it that these God-haters are frothing at the mouth and only too ready to burn God-lovers at the stake? Let’s not get carried away here.

    If I truly believe that Elvis is alive, the burden is upon me to convince you of this “truth,” and why you should believe it. If I have a deep inner conviction that my ancestors are looking over me, the burden is upon me to convince you of this “truth,” and why you should, like me, worship them.

    There are so many things we are compelled to believe, compelled by the sincere, the cynical, the hypocritical or simply the downright dishonest. How do we know what to believe and what not to believe, what to accept and what not to accept? Astrology? Homeopathy? Aliens? The instant six-pack? Creationsim? Plate tectonics? General relativity? And which god should we believe in? Zeus? Thor? Odin? Brahma? Shiva? Vishnu? Osiris? Any? Which holy books should we study? The Bhagavad Gita? The Qur’an? The Upanishads? The Holy Books of Thelema? The Sikhs’ Holy Books?

    Perhaps many of these God-hating non-believers, churning out their misotheist venom and bile, as you put it, are simply waiting for a good reason or perhaps some good evidence that gods exist. There is a vast amount of evidence to support a purely natural world view. Plate tectonics, geology, paleontology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and so on, all provide a convincing and compelling explanation for many things on this beautiful planet. If these explanations have no need to invoke gods then why should we employ a god in the explanation? Why should the faithless discard plate tectonics and rather accept that a god created mountains? That is what the debate comes down to. When it comes to murder, we accept the little bits of evidence that the police collect and judge whether their explanation seems plausible. We wouldn’t accept an explanation that simply said an invisible, supernatural evil did it.

    Finally, it does not follow that by not believing in Odin one must hate Odin. Likewise it does not follow that by not believing in Zeus one must hate Zeus. Wikipedia lists 309 Hindu deities. Atheists do not hate all 309 of them. The ancient Hittites claimed to have 1000 deities in their pantheon. Atheists do not hate all 1000 of them. Then again, perhaps some do. But I think you get the point.

    Richard Blackmore

  • You people really need help.

    Bill, you have so much energy for this crapola. How ever do you keep it up. Sorry if I crossed the line and you can’t publish my comment. But I honestly, sincerely think you people need to get out more and read a few books.

    Darren Wright

  • I find puzzling the hysterical over-reaction of the religious to what is basically an essay concerning the reaction of a non-believer to what she percieves as the oddities of Catholic beliefs. Is this because she fails to give the proper degree (or any) deference to other people’s religious beliefs? I note also that not one pro-theistic commentator on this thread (so far as I have been able to discern) offers any substantive rebuttal to Catherine Deveny’s substative remarks, such as they are. Rather, the responses are mostly personal abuse or recitation of religious dogma without any basis in fact or logic. This leaves me with the sense that the religious-minded do not have any justification for their faith that is based on evidence, logic, or even common-sense. I am also left wondering whether the degree of hysteria is proportional to the degree of inner doubt?
    Tom Coward

  • Roger

    Should I pray to the Virgin Mary to forgive my sins? Is this something that you would recommend?

    Craig NIckerson

  • In all history people who step outside the basis of our humanity and try to play the role of God eventually disappear leaving only traces of their notoriety if anything at all. Our stability stems from Biblical roots and our strengh is in defending our faith and belief. But there is much more. Our personal security and prosperity is also guaranteed if we continue to do this. It is sad that Catherine Deveny can never know the gift of peace of mind in herself and with her world. All we can do is pray for her as we do for any other unfortunate coming to our attention. It may be time Bill to let Catherine live with her sorry belief and bitterness?
    Peter Rice

  • Thanks Richard

    Of course the real issue of debate here is the God of biblical Christianity, the evidence for whom has been dealt with in various places, including on this website. The issue is following the evidence where it may lead. That is just what hardcore atheist Antony Flew did, and he had to leave atheism for theism as a result.

    Atheists simply have to deny too much evidence and suppress too many facts. Those who are genuine seekers will find plenty of evidence. But if one’s mind is already made up, then no amount of evidence will help.

    Your various objections I have dealt with elsewhere in this site, so I will not repeat myself. And as to the hatred of God, any neutral reader of atheists such as Deveny or Dawkins will see it oozing out of their every pore.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Darren

    Actually I do get out a fair amount and I have been known to read the occasional book.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Tom

    But any objective reading of Deveny will find very little of actual substance, and plenty of invective, mockery and name-calling. Not exactly great argumentation there. She has yet to make her case.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Craig

    Catholics and Protestants agree on the basics: that we are sinners in need of a saviour, and that salvation is provided by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There are differences as to the role Mary should play in all this.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Then, Bill, if she has not made her case, what is the point of replying to her? And why all the hysteria and name-calling?

    And, to Peter Rice, my personal experience and that of other athiests to whom I have spoken at length is that truly profound peace comes with the realization that there is no God. Suddenly the world makes sense, and all of the mental energy (not to mention material resources) formerly expeneded in defense of rationally undefensible beliefs and institutions becomes free for more rewarding and productive pursuits. I personally have found endlessly more peace and serenity with an athiestic world view than I ever did as a believer. But, in fairness to all, my personal story is mere anecdotal evidence.

    Tom Coward

  • We should read more books should we Darren? To date I have read over a thousand that I have in my personal library; a large number whilst gaining my theological degree; an infinitely larger number whilst gaining three university degrees and my computer is stacked with articles that I have acquired from the internet. Can you advise me if that number of books and articles qualify for your assesment of getting out and reading a few books?

    Roger Marks.

  • Thanks Tom

    But let’s get things in order here. Catherine Deveny writes yet another piece of anti-Christian bigotry, short on substance and long on hate and vilification. I write a response, and then the atheist brigade comes out big time, bashing me for my efforts. And then you come along and suggest that theists are engaging in “hysteria and name-calling”. In so doing it seems that you are guilty of, well, hysteria and name-calling.

    My contention is that most atheist attacks are lightweight affairs, lacking in depth and substance, but heavy on abuse and ridicule. Those who do bother to seriously examine the evidence for theism, like Flew, find plenty of evidence, and follow that evidence to its logical conclusion. Too many other atheists I have interacted with make it quite clear that following the evidence wherever it may lead is the last thing on their mind.

    But what is of real interest here is your confession. I do not know what sort of “believer” you were, but if you rejected a biblical Christian past, then you will always know in the back of your mind that one day you will stand before the Jesus you have snubbed, and will not have very much to say. The greatest sin is the pride and arrogance that goes with creatures who think they can take the place of the creator.

    Again, that is your choice, and I cannot do anything about it, except to keep you in prayer, and to continue to promote the truth claims of Christianity in the public arena.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Well, Bill. I think you are a little light on facts, at least as it comes to my post. I have called no one a name, and my tone has been calm and rational.

    More importantly, I think you have missed the point of the arguments made by non-theists concerning religious claims. Anthony Flew is the only scholar of any note that I have heard of who has seriously examined evidence for theism and has moved from non-theism to theism. And, he has apparently moved to a sort of Deism that would regard the specific truth-claims of the sort that you make as being at best very unlikely, and at worst, incoherent. (I would note, but have no opinion myself, that there is some doubt in certain circles about professor Flew’s actual “conversion”)

    Aside from Anthony Flew, are there any other prominent athiests who have moved in that direction? I am not aware of any, but would welcome further enlightenment.

    As for my “conversion,” I am quite sure that I do not have any knowledge “in the back of my mind” or anywhere else that I will ever have the opportunity of meeting Jesus in this or any other world. I did not “snub” Jesus any more than I have “snubbed” Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. It is that, on mature reflection, I concluded that there was no evidence for the existence of Jesus (as the “son of God”), and that I was not therefore warranted in beliving that such a Jesus existed.

    I am aware that there is some respectable body of scholarly opinion that the historical Jesus never existed, and further that most serious Bible scholars admit that much that has come down to us in the Gospels concerning Jesus has been the result of later additions and forgeries. If those whose profession is sorting out the factual underpinnings of Christianity have reached no better conclusion, I really do not see the basis for a mere layman to have a fervent opinion in the matter.

    It is in this spirit that I maintain that the truly peaceful and serene frame of mind arises from an athiest world view, as there is then no need to defend the dubious or indefensible. And, should suitable evidence for the divinity of Jesus (or any other such matter) later turn up, the athiest is alway open to a change of heart.

    By the way, if you wish to pray for my re-conversion, please feel free. I take this as evidence of your desire to do me a great favor, and I would not sneer at such a gift.

    Tom Coward

  • The common thread running through many of the detractors to Christian faith here is that they miss the point. Christianity is not about the Church, or whether or not Bill gets a little acerbic now and then (or often!) or whether or not those who have not heard the Gospel go to heaven or hell.

    All of the objections – even if honest and/or valid – must take secondary status to answering the question, who do you consider Jesus to be? One of the major irritations with Deveny’s writing, as with many of the posts here, is that no distinction is made between what Christianity actually is and some of its external appearances and human outworkings (which will always be imperfect). As some believers have pointed out, some of her criticisms of the Church are fair enough. But the central thing about Christianity is Jesus. Before worrying about anything else, let’s hear what you think about Jesus. But Deveny throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    Nothing so sheds light on biases and the error of non-belief than listening to those who wish to deny Jesus truly said and did what is recorded in the Gospels. It’s almost evidence in itself that so many ideas exist to try to explain Him away. Mary wasn’t a virgin, Jesus was married, Jesus didn’t really die – he swooned, the disciples stole the body, etc. etc. That some of these get even a look-in is a revelation in itself on the heart condition of those who would consider these theories in depth.

    On the validity of the Christian faith, I would say a number of things – first, Jesus backed up his claims of being God. Second, the Church was obviously not founded on human effort alone. Third, Christianity is unique in its core doctrine of grace. Fourth, the experience of Jesus for people (including myself) is still happening today. (I have stories myself – in fact much from the last 12 months – that amaze me that they actually happened)

    Obviously that last one is the weakest of them, but no-one who believes in any other system of faith has such a solid ground on which to base their belief as the other three. Islam, Buddha, Joseph Smith, pink unicorns, etc.? No comparison. (there’s probably even more reasons, but I’m in a bit of a hurry)

    If you are going to dismiss Christianity you need to focus on what you are actually doing. The question is asked of you, the same one Jesus put to the disciples, “Who do you say I am?”

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks Tom

    There are plenty of atheists who have turned to Christ. As to recent ones, we have of course the world-class intellect CS Lewis from Oxford. Even more recent ones – also from Oxford – include Dr Alister McGrath, with degrees in both science and theology.

    Many atheists who set out to debunk Christianity ended up being convinced of its rationality, integrity and historical reliability. Frank Morrison and Lee Strobel are just a few of many. Your apparent ignorance of them indicates again your atheism is all bluff and bluster, and not based on solid study and examination of the evidence.

    Indeed, have you actually read Flew’s book, or those by world-class Christian philosopher and thinkers, such as Swinburne, Plantinga, Zacharias, Moreland and Craig? You say you had a believing past. But just what did that consist of? A few Sunday School classes when you were three? Or serious study of the actual truth claims of biblical Christianity? There is a world of difference between the two.

    Time and time again when I debate atheists and they tell me they rejected their Christian past, it turns out to be nothing of the kind. They never had a serious, in-depth study of Christian theology and evidences, only a brief fling with religiosity or churchianity.

    As to Jesus, there is not one reputable New Testament scholar anywhere in the world that seriously doubts the existence of Jesus as an historical figure. Even very liberal theologians acknowledge his existence. So you are quite out of your depth here, and are on as solid ground as suggesting J.F. Kennedy never existed.

    Which is exactly why I suggest that most atheists are not even aware of the evidence, let alone follow it through carefully. With all due respect, for you to make such a howler as this indicates just what little study – if any –you have now, or ever, done into this most basic and elementary of questions.

    I respectfully suggest that you do a bit more homework into what Christianity is actually about before you revel in how superior you now are to have rejected it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • O.K. I promise that I’m done here.

    The only point that I am trying to make is that when I say that I am an atheist, many religious folks react as if they are shocked that anyone could possibly take such a position. Yet, they do the very same thing in regards to other people’s deeply held beliefs that conflict with their own. If you are a devout catholic and want to understand how seriously I take your claims, just think about how seriously you take the Book of Mormon.

    But, we all have to live together, right? The Book of Mormon isn’t going away anytime soon, the Koran isn’t going anywhere either. What to do?

    This is why I have a respect for the Amish. They practice their own beliefs on the outskirts of secular society and leave everyone else alone. Plus they are excellent carpenters and make fine baked goods. Yay Amish!

    Politically minded Christians however, want a say in how society should be run and wish to impose Biblical doctrine upon secular society. This is about as appealing to me as living under Shiite law might seem to you.

    Thus we have movements pushing to teach creationism as science, Thus we have a resistance to gay rights in secular society.

    As as side note. Doesn’t the Bible teach that Satan is master of this world anyway? By your lights you will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Why do you need this earthly realm as well? How greedy can you get? Can we have our planet back? I digress.

    Atheism aside, how do you propose to deal with other religions that conflict with your own when having to live within the same national borders? Who gets to make the rules and on what basis will these rules be formed when you can’t rely on the authority of your conflicting holy books?

    Craig Nickerson

  • My goodness what a lot of nonsense
    Where is your evidnce for this god of yours
    We are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
    Simon Barron

  • If you want evidence for the existence of Jesus read the non-christian Jewish historian Josephus. He was born in 37AD and in his “The Works of Josephus” he speak about Jesus himself, John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus. When you have read that read the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 in the caves of Qumran. They speak of the same Jesus and are orginal scrolls written at that time, not copies.

    After reading this very clear evidence, only a fool or someone with a closed mind would say that Jesus did not exist.

    Roger Marks

  • The debate between a Muslim who denied the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and a Christian who argued for the case would be very instructive for those who claim to be atheists:
    http://www.answering-islam.org/Debates/Deedat_McDowell.html
    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks Craig

    You are welcome to keep at it if you wish. As to competing religious truth claims, as I said, you compare and examine the evidence. For example, if your investigation leads you to believe that the Gospels are reliable historical documents, then you can assess the claims made by Christ. If they seem palatable, then you can rule out contradictory claims, such as those of eastern religions and Islam.

    The real trick is to actually show interest in, and search through, the claims being made. Many critics of Christianity have never actually fully investigated its claims. Most atheists have rejected a Christianity that they have never explored. All they have rejected is something else: a lousy church experience, or second hand knowledge, etc

    As to religion in the public square, I have written elsewhere on this site about that, including in my latest article (a book review of ‘Christ and Culture Revisited’). Everyone is inherently religious, even secularists. And everyone wants their version of events to be reflected in the public arena and in public policy.

    In a democracy, various worldviews can compete for allegiance. People can make their case, and citizens can share their values with their political representatives. We all compete in the world of ideas and political expression. There is no problem there.

    And God is the rightful ruler of this world. Satan is just a fake claimant to it. But believers are citizens of both worlds: heaven and earth. We, just as much as anyone else, have responsibilities and obligations in this world, and we, just like anyone else, can seek to have our concerns and values reflected in legislation and public policy. Why shouldn’t we?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There are plenty of atheists who have turned to Christ. As to recent ones, we have of course the world-class > intellect CS Lewis from Oxford. Even more recent ones – also from Oxford – include Dr Alister McGrath, with degrees in both science and theology.

    “plenty” could be 100, but that still wouldn’t be any number significant. Bill you play games with words. The only major Religion that is actually growing in this day and age, is Islam, and only because of their birth rates at that. For every atheist who turned to Christ, I’d suggest that ten-fold went the other way. How else to explain the growth of “atheist” vs the lack of (relative) growth of Christianity.

    ….

    regards,
    Darren Wright

  • Just as there are many who profess to be Christians, but when it comes to the test are found not to be so, so it is with atheists. However, if I understand the Bible correctly, humanity is divided not into believers and non-believers but between those who worship the one true God and others who are idolaters. Atheists worship themselves.
    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks Darren

    But my remarks were addressed to Tom, not to you, so I will not run your overly lengthy comment. And given how wrong you got things in your first paragraph, the rest of your objections are not really worth responding to anyway.

    Christianity happens to be the fasting growing world religion, while Islam is second. And Christianity is growing mainly by conversions, while Islam is simply growing by demographics: Muslims just happen to have larger families than do non-Muslims.

    As to the numbers: since when is truth determined by numbers? Even if Flew and McGrath were the only atheists ever to reject atheism and embrace theism, that fact still has to be dealt with on its own merits.

    And you are wrong as well on the “growth” of atheism. What Western census figures show is a slight gain in “non-religious” categories, not atheism. And even if 99 per cent of the world’s population were atheists, so what? Again, truth is not decided on by sheer weight of numbers. If that were your only criteria for belief, then you should be a theist, since the overwhelming majority of mankind both now and throughout human history have been theists.

    But since Tom is more than capable to respond to my remarks, we will let him do that, thanks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Simon

    But Ms Deveny has already made that rather juvenile point, so your rehashing of it adds absolutely nothing to the debate. The only thing that this foolish remarks reveals is that both of you have a philosophical pre-commitment to naturalism and materialism. You have ruled out ahead of time any supernatural or metaphysical realities. So no amount of evidence to the contrary will persuade you, since you have already closed your mind on the subject. There is nothing particularly intelligent or rational about that sort of approach to truth and reality.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Let’s see how Craig’s statement sounds with a few adjustments so that it reads from a Christian perspective:

    Politically minded atheists however, want a say in how society should be run and wish to impose secular doctrine upon society. This is about as appealing to me as living under Sharia law might seem to you.

    Thus we have movements pushing to teach evolutionism as science; thus we have a resistance to the rights of the preborn.

    As as side note. The Bible teaches that God owns this world anyway? So the Christian can say to the atheist – Can we have our planet back? I digress.

    How do you atheists propose to deal with other religions that conflict with your own when having to live within the same national borders? Who gets to make the rules and on what basis will these rules be formed when you can’t rely on any form of authority and instead simply make it up as you go?

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Richard Blackmore claims the burden of proof should be upon those who make incredible claims. I totally agree. Can he please explain how in the beginning there was nothing, then it exploded and created an intricate universe. Then going against all the time tested laws of chemistry and physics life then arose from inanimate matter. This life then managed, again working against natural laws, to increase it’s complexity to have achieved the incredible diversity and complexity we now see. And it did this without leaving any evidence of transitional forms in the fossil record. Truly an amazing feat, even a miracle far more impressive than any recorded in the Bible.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Richard B: put ‘plate tectonics’ into CreationOnTheWeb for 238 references including computer models explaining rapid plate subduction within the 1-year timeframe of Noah’s Flood. From Anthropogy to Zoology, study of real evidence, without a pre-supposition that no god exists, implies that an intelligent creator designed the universe and life. Don’t believe me? Then why did Prof. Richard Lewontin (a leading advocate of evolution) write:
    “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite … of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
    Impressive faith! So did nothing turn into everything (time, space, matter, energy & life) by itself? Is that rational? Now evolution has one working leg – natural selection (described by pre-Darwin creationists) – but that can’t work without life – which needs a massive atheistic miracle to start! Then evolution needs mutations to produce the new info to drift upward from pond-scum towards pigs. That requires zillions of atheistic miracles since all beneficial mutations studied are loss of function!
    Study the Bible and science (and ‘creationism’) with an open mind. The creationists are more logical and use less faith than evolutionists! The Bible says Jesus created everything perfect, including Adam and Eve: perfect but with a free will – which they used – hence sin and death etc. But Jesus offers, not forces, the only solution to eternal life.
    Peter Newland

  • Supporters of naturalism have painted themselves into a corner – surely there should be the realization by now that if no experiment exists (after 150 years of evolution) that has successfully emulated abiogenesis, then you have only at least one of two conclusions available for this result:

    1. Mankind’s very best science isn’t that really that good because even undirected events do a much better job than it.
    2. Life is considerably more complex and brilliant than some are willing to admit. (because it argues strongly for a creator/designer.)

    Ewan, I concur – the ball is fairly and squarely on their side of the court. But it would be too much for most atheists to face up to this failure and how it affects their philosophy.

    Of course, another irony with this is the flat out denial that Jesus rose from the dead (despite excellent historical evidence for this), but you could potentially get a straight face telling you how life came from non-life (with zero supporting evidence) in the very next sentence.

    Mark Rabich

  • I woke up to the stupidity of evolution when I heard an evolutionist say that the world cannot be more than 2 million years old. Then I heard another one say it was 10 million years old. Then a third one said it was 20 million years old. Then a well known athropologist said it was 200 million years old. Then he said recently a certain species was around 800 million years ago.

    If evolution is a fact then it must have stopped because nothing has evolved since evolution was discovered unless you believe in the Piltdown man which was a complete hoax.
    Roger Marks

  • Roger, where did you hear these ‘evolutionists’? The modern thinking on the age of the earth is that it is on the order of 4.5 billion years old (this is ‘American’ billions,, i.e., 1 billion = 1 thousand million.) Animals that are recognisably human (or recognizable as human ancestors or collateral relatives) have been around for a time on the order of 1 or 2 million years.
    Also, evolution is well documented over relatively short periods of time, as is reviewed in this NY Times article: http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/a-natural-selection/
    Tom Coward

  • I just feel both saddened and disgusted to read the stupid comment by JC Samuelson that “God is a self-absorbed sadist “. Unfortunately this is similar to Catherine’s rant of ex-Catholic vitriolic anti-Christianity and her experiental association with empty adherance to religious ritual which she uses as a cartoon view of Christianity. I know where they are both coming from, having spent 15 years from the age of 15 in the wilderness of aggressive Jesus hatred. There but by the grace of God, I went! I know only too well the arrogant position of shaking my fist at God and daring to stand in judgement of my Creator, until my life changing encounter with my risen Lord and Saviour and the life influencing knowledge of the truth, particularly the issue of real origins history. We are all ‘one blood’ and go back to the original created couple Adam and Eve ,6000 years ago at the beginning of Creation.

    There are no different ’so called races’ just people groups with varying amounts of melanin in their skin pigmentation. For example look at these two toned twins.
    http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/5622

    If you start with man as the measure of all things and refuse to seriously consider the truth claims of Christ the slippery slope of atheism beckons. My experience confirmed that it was indeed all down hill. Even so-called brilliant people like Mayr by rejecting the truth have declared themselves to be fools.

    Consider some thoughts from this site: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/wow/where-did-millions-of-years-come-from :

    “The renowned atheist evolutionist and Harvard University biologist Ernst Mayr said this: ‘The [Darwinian] revolution began when it became obvious that the earth was very ancient rather than having been created only 6000 years ago. This finding was the snowball that started the whole avalanche.’ Mayr was right about the age of the earth (not Darwin’s theory) being the beginning of the avalanche of unbelief. He was wrong that the idea of millions of years was a ‘finding’ of scientific research. Rather, it was the fruit of antibiblical philosophical assumptions used to interpret the rocks and fossils. Typical of what Lyell, Buffon, and others wrote is Hutton’s statement. He insisted, ‘The past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now. … No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle’. By insisting that geologists must reason only from known, present-day natural processes, Hutton ruled out supernatural creation and the unique global Flood of Genesis, before he ever looked at the rocks.”

    Ben Green, you have total faith in what your explanation of ‘a box full of fossils’ means and that your interpretations and presuppositions are definative and authoritive and a challenge to Biblical Christianity. A little like Hutton above? Also MJ Smith you are holding to a false history timeline on the basis of your so called “experts” who assert 200,000 years of Homo sapiens history. A throughly Biblical creationist Christian worldview would defer to the authority of God and Scripture to tell us real history. Historical evidential reasoned Christianity and its Old Testament Judeo roots makes the ultimate truth claims. For instance, Jesus claimed to be “The Way, the Truth and the Life”.

    Jennifer Parfenovics

  • Tom, the only evolution “well documented over relatively short periods of time” is not evolution but Natural Selection (NS). NS is incapable of upward goo-to-you evolution – it results in LESS genetic info than in the parent population. That’s de-volution – downhill! Evolution would already have been scrapped if it wasn’t an excuse to reject a creator.
    When radiometric dating can be checked against known history it’s often way out. E.g. 20th century lava flows dated at hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Or charred wood, found in a lava flow, carbon dated at thousands while the lava dates at millions. If a method fails when it can be checked, why have faith in it when it can’t be checked?
    I prefer to trust the Bible. It effectively claims to be an eyewitness account of creation. Then the evidence in the real world fits the Bible better than it does evolution.
    Peter Newland

  • Hi Jennifer,

    My comment was not meant to be a challenge to Christianity. I was merely trying to make a point about people coming to your door and immediately starting to preach to you about a topic you may find offensive or have no interest in.

    Something else. In regards to the comments made about Josephus. I guess the most popular (if I can put it that way) is Antiquities 18:63-64. From my reading most if not all would agree that the paragraph has had “additions” made to it since its original authorship. I find it odd that in the all the work produced by Josephus, he only makes a passing mention to Jesus twice. I think the reliability of the passages are dubious at best. Certainly, they do not prove the existence someone like Jesus Christ. I have also read passages of Tacitus, Suetonius, Lucian all of which are supposed to reference Jesus but in reality there is nothing conclusive. For me, I have not found any historical evidence for Jesus outside the bible. I also struggle to find an author within the bible that met Jesus. The only two probable candidates are Mathew and John. Depending on which scholars one follows, it is believed that much of what Mathew wrote was based upon Mark. If this is true why would Mathew need to do such a thing given he should have known Jesus very well? There is also a large ? over who was the original author of John’s Gospel. In fact, there is most likely a large ? over all the authors (except maybe some of Paul’s work). Since authorship was assigned at some later point, how can we be sure? The search continues….

    The something from nothing argument often pops up but I am afraid that creationist’s must deal with the same problem. What did God create the universe from?

    Ben Green

  • Juliana Simbroski said:
    “The trend towards unbelief is therefore likely to increase with each generation.

    If we hope to reverse this trend, we need better arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity. The old ways just don’t seem to be working.”

    “Better arguments” would mean “evidence”. This will need to be more substantial than citations from a text that has been redacted repeatedly over thousands of years. Bring it on. “Personal experience” is not evidence either, unless it can be repeated and documented.

    Steve Weeks

  • Thanks Ben

    But now you are just parroting the tired old atheist objections here. We actually have better historical evidence for the existence of Jesus than we do for most figures in antiquity. By using the same silly scepticism applied to Jesus, atheists would also have to doubt the existence of Alexander the Great, or Julius Caesar.

    Even if we had no extra-biblical sources for Jesus, the historical reliability of the four Gospels is second to none. But we do have plenty of non-biblical sources, in Jewish writings, classical writings, and in noncanonical Christian writings. Together they make for a persuasive case. Indeed, there is enough material there for Van Voorst to fill 250 pages recently in his discussion, Jesus Outside the New Testament (2000).

    And with all due respect, when you make a statement such as the following, it shows how firmly your feet are planted in mid-air: “I also struggle to find an author within the bible that met Jesus”. You are now really scrapping the bottom of the sceptic septic tank, instead of using your critical faculties. The majority of NT authors had a first-hand encounter with Christ, while the others were all alive while Jesus lived.

    Again, no other comparable figure in antiquity has such an array of authors who knew personally the subject they were writing about. So this rather silly scepticism here just reveals the desperation of atheism. Why not treat the mountains of genuine scholarship on Jesus as seriously as you would that for any other historical character? It is obvious that atheists do not want to believe, and will simply dismiss any evidence which conflicts with their faith.

    The denial of the historicity of Jesus is the desperate act of desperate unbelievers who simply do not want to face reality.

    And your understanding of the New Testament fares no better I am afraid. All the NT documents were penned within the first century, with the great majority penned some 15 to 30 years after the death of Christ. Again, nowhere else in antiquity do we have so many manuscripts written so close to the events they describe.

    Ben, in the past I and others have suggested books you might read if you want more info on these issues. I would think someone genuinely searching for truth would take up such an offer, and read a few of these books. But it appears that you have just perused some atheist websites to pick up a few more lame objections. If that is the case, then one can rightly ask just how honest you are in your search, and just how willing you really are to find truth. But I leave that for you to ponder.

    As to creation, you are mixing apples and oranges. For something to come from nothing is indeed impossible. For something to come from God is not.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Steve

    But for the majority of atheists, evidence is not the issue at all. The evidence for theism in general and Christianity in particular is massive, persuasive and compelling. But the real issue here is the faith of the atheist. They have a precommitment to philosophical naturalism, so they rule out ahead of time any evidence which runs counter to their faith-based commitment to materialism. Under those circumstances, no amount of evidence or argumentation will get anywhere.

    Thus what we find with most atheists is nothing more than wilful blindness, bigotry and an a priori commitment to the religion of naturalism. And it has become clear that one cannot rationally argue with such true believers.

    Thus my main energies here are devoted to those who are genuine seekers, who have not already closed their minds, and are willing to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, as Antony Flew did.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    Thank you for answering my post. You are correct that I don’t understand God, Jesus or prayer. But I do understand causality. You say that God calls the shots and you have no say about it. Then why pray? You cannot be telling an omniscient God anything that he doesn’t already know. You cannot expect your prayers to be causally related to any change of heart I might have, or you must take back what you say about having no influence with God. You are contradicting yourself, which is fine—it is your right to do so… I don’t think myself above contradictions—but you can’t cover the contradiction by asserting that I don’t understand even though that is true.

    Moses did not say, “God is God, he calls the shots, not me.” Moses argued with God to some effect. And there are other Bible stories (I’m sure you know them much better than I) in which God’s policy was influenced by impassioned mortals. I think you are just copping out.

    You want to restrain God by logic. That is a fair move, of course, but you must recognize the full implications of it. If you chose to define ‘omnipotence’ as having the power to do anything within the bounds of logic then you are saying there is something more fundamental than God. Logic transcends God. It is the framework within which even God must work. It is, in a sense, prior to God. What then, is a miracle? Whatever it is, it must be logically possible.

    So it is logical for God to create us with free will, which is good… but it is only good for a few short years while we live on earth and is then snatched away for the rest of eternity. If free will is good now, why isn’t it good a thousand years after death? Can a soul in torment have a change of heart and travel from hell to heaven? Or does free will stop at death?

    You illustrate God’s powerlessness with a metaphor about a doctor who can only advise. It is true, doctors usually only advise. Power they have comes mostly from the consent of the patient. But not in every case. Doctors are empowered in matters of public health and certain cases of mental health to act without the consent of the patient. Even so, doctors are not omnipotent. They did not create the universe. They did not ‘call the shots’ that make reality what it is. (Did God create logic? Did he forge the chains which bind him?) God is certainly more powerful than a doctor. But then, doctors try to reason with their patients; to persuade them to health… at least the good ones do. I suppose there are still some doctors who, like some parents, expect obedience for no other reason than, “because I say so.”

    Let us accept, for the sake of argument, that the omnipotent for reasons of his own limits himself to an advisory role. He gives us free will for an insignificant period (consider the scale of a lifetime against eternity). It’s like someone confronting you with a life or death decision and giving you 10 seconds to make up your mind. That alone is a form of torture—how we agonize over these decisions! Once you’re dead you live with the consequences for all eternity. This is all out of proportion to be called just.

    Sin is said to be separation from God. If God is good, separation from that goodness is supposed undesirable. All God wants (say his apologists) is to be reunited with you. But if you act petulant for one hundred years and die without reconciling, God is OK with throwing you in a lake of fire. Maybe he didn’t want to be reunited all that much… I am petty for one hundred years. God is petty for the remainder of time. I suppose, since God is omniscient, a lifetime is plenty long enough for him to know me and judge me. but I am not omniscient. What if I need a little more time?

    I don’t think I am better qualified to run the universe, and fortunately I don’t have to. All I have to do is either assent to or dissent from torture. I choose to dissent from torture, even if God claims that, through no fault or desire of his own, reality just happens to be set up in such a way that failure to recognize him leads to eternal torture. And my reasoning brings me full circle. I cannot resolve the contradiction between a ‘good’ God and eternal torture. That is a logical impossibility.

    You claim to be powerless in the face of God’s will (he calls the shots, not me, you said) thus removing yourself from responsibility. Then you turn around and remove the responsibility from God, because he is bound by logic and cannot do the impossible. But although he is powerless to change the rules (which he did? did not? create in the first place) he will advise us to make the choice (in the relative micro-second we have) that lets us be pals together for eternity. Otherwise, forget it and prepare to scream. I cannot believe that God would be so diabolical, and I reject this devil’s bargain. As you defend it, I again conclude that there is something in this arrangement that appeals to you. But I am at an utter loss to perceive it.

    Jamie Scott

  • Hi Bill, thanks for the reply.

    It is a fair point in regards to the likes of Caesar and Alexander the great but they do differer in direct historical evidence. Did Caesar exist? Well, there is some record of him from many different sources including his enemies, there are coins with his face on them, there is a bust of his head, there is a calender that was instigated by him, there are written works by him. There are many physical connection between now and when he lived. The chances are quite high that there was a Julius Caesar.

    Now trying to find a physical connection between now and when Jesus was alive is much harder. The problem for me is we have the bible but not much else. Hence my interest in Jesus outside the bible. I must point out that I am not saying there was no Jesus. What I am trying to do is to make that connection. Of course the obvious thing is to go the way of the bible and I have been doing that for some time and probably for some time to come. One of my interest is the authorship of documents. Who wrote what and why? The problem with the bible is that the authorship of many parts is somewhat grey. The other problem is time lines. If we look at when the gospels were written the dates do vary depending on who or what you read. What Mark was 50-60 ad up to John 80-100?? The problem is we do not know. The only full gospels that survive are ones translated versions from the 4th century. The fragments of the original works are only guessed at using higher criticism.

    I think it is a fair question to ask how many authors of the bible either met or new Jesus. If we look at the main five candidates of Paul, Mark, Matthew , Luke and John there are really only two that are possibles. Matthew and John. Paul was said to have hung around the apostles but there is no real evidences of this and his writings were supposed to have been inspired by God/Jesus while traveling to Damascus. Mark who was a nephew of Peter and may or may not have spent some time with Paul. Luke was reportedly a physician and followed Paul around. When did these people meet Jesus?

    From what I have read, the consensus is that an anonymous author was most likely for Gospel of Matthew since the writing style is not that of an eye witness and is mostly presented in the third person. It is also noted that the content of this Gospel relies heavily on Mark’s works. Why would an eye witness need to do that? There are other strange things like how would Matthew know what Jesus was thinking when he was out in the wilderness? Now a Matthew may have been with Jesus but it appears this is not the same person who wrote the Gospel. John is a possibility but again scholars deem it also to be an anonymous author. I am not sure on this one and still reading but if John is John the Evangelist then he would have been very old when he wrote it. Question is why wait so long?

    I am also reading about Philo of Alexandria and Justus of Tiberius who were both Jewish historians and alive at and after the time of Jesus. Philo lived near Jerusalem. Justus was a native of Galilee and wrote extensively on the history of the region. Justus was also a contemporary to Josephus. Strange thing is neither of this men have made any mention of Jesus. It would be interesting to know why?

    I will endeavor to find the book you mentioned but I am afraid my finances do not allow me the luxury of building such a library. I more often than not must rely on the local library and the unreliability of the internet. In some ways I am at a disadvantage.

    Ben Green

  • Thanks Jamie

    You raise too many points to properly cover here in a short comment (which is what these comments are supposed to be!).But let me try to deal with a few.

    You start by misreading me. When I say God calls the shots, I simply meant he is the boss, not us, and that he is in a suitable position to lay out the rules, not us.

    And you have all the time necessary to admit right now that you are not God, that you are a rebel who must lay down his arms, and realign yourself with God’s hopes and desires for you. Forget this “micro-second” foolishness. Right now, as you argue with me (and in effect, God), about your unhappiness with the way he does things, you are simply continuing as the defiant rebel. How long will you keep going on like this?

    The truth is, if God gave us a thousands years, or a million, we would simply further compound our rebellion, and sink further into our selfishness and sin, and our rejection of our creator. So time really has nothing to do with it. It would simply harden us even further.

    Now is the day of salvation, as Scripture reminds us. Every second you argue against God, you are making more choices in which you say you do not want God, are not happy with his ways of doing things, and think that you can do better.

    As I say, that is the ultimate sin: the folly of thinking we are wiser and kinder than God, and that we should be calling the shots, not him. If there is an eternal destiny apart from a loving and kind God (which would certainly be torture), it is chosen by us. Again, God has done everything possible for us to avoid hell. The only people who end up there are those who prefer it to being with God. It is our choice, and ours alone.

    If you are not happy with the arrangements, that is your choice. God will not coerce you to love him. That is a contradiction in terms. So if you reject his only provision for avoiding hell and remaining with him forever, then that is exactly what you will get.

    And there is nothing contradictory about prayer at all. God time and again invites us into a loving relationship with him, and prayer is part of that personal relationship. It is a wondrous thing that the God of the universe invites us into such an intimate relationship with him.

    Also, God is a God of truth, who cannot contradict himself. Logic is part of God’s nature, not something external to him which he appeals to. And there is nothing illogical or contradictory about miracles. If God can create the whole universe out of nothing, it is no big deal for him to do other things which we regard as miraculous.

    And as to the doctor analogy (which was all it was intended to be), I repeat: If a doctor loving and patiently warns you for decades that you must stop an unhealthy behaviour, or you will certainly face some nasty consequences, and you stubbornly and defiantly reject your doctor and his pleas, it would be ridiculous for you to rebuke your doctor and claim that he is somehow unfair, unjust or unloving because you now suffer so.

    In a similar way, God is now pleading, warning, wooing and hoping that we rebels will see that we are on the wrong path, and that it has very real negative consequences both now and later. If we totally reject his loving, patient overture, it is simply foolish to say he is unjust if we end up receiving what we so long demanded: our own autonomy forever, which is very hellish indeed.

    I repeat the wise words of C.S. Lewis one final time: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.”

    How dare we think that we can do a better and more fair job than a holy, pure, righteous and perfect God in dealing with the sin issue. God paid the highest price possible: sending his own innocent son to die in our place, taking the just penalty we deserve, so that we do not have to pay the price. There is no more loving, sacrificial, gracious and merciful act than that, yet defiant rebels still reject it, wailing about injustice and lack of fairness, and so on. Sorry, but God has done all he can for us. If we are still unhappy with all that he has done, we simply add ingratitude, pettiness, and arrogance to our lengthy list of sins. And because we sin against an infinite God, that makes our sins all the worse.

    But this is just the simple Christian gospel, which you have probably heard many times over. There is not much more point in me rehashing all this. It is as if one is a destitute. Impoverished, broken cripple and a millionaire comes along and offers a cheque for a million dollars. Yet for some incredible reason he refuses it. It would be ludicrous to call the benefactor unjust or unloving in this situation.

    God offers every one of us a free gift: forgiveness of sins, relationship with a loving Father, and eternal life with him. And he paid an incredible price to make this offer possible. If we say no, than there is no injustice on God’s part; only arrogance and stupidity on our own.

    And with all due respect, forget also your excuse of “through no fault or desire of his own, reality just happens to be set up in such a way that failure to recognize him”. Right now we are dealing with just one person: Jamie Scott. You have heard the gospel message. Will you receive it or reject it? That is the most important question you will ever have to deal with.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Ben

    But with all due respect, can I suggest that you are simply being selective in who you are turning to for information. All you have said here is the standard pap from those who do not want to acknowledge that Jesus was a historical person.

    While finances may well be a problem, you are obviously managing to find all the resources you want from the sceptics and the atheists. Why not use the same means for reading some views from the other side for a change? If it is the Internet that you are mostly making use of, I will more than happily provide you with a half dozen websites which deal with all your objections.

    Again, it is a question of whether you are really interested in hearing all the evidence, or if you just want to keep returning to your unbelieving peers for more ammunition to make your case. To be honest, life is too short, and I am not interested in wasting time with those who already have their minds made up and simply want to religiously argue their case. But for those who are genuinely searching for truth, I will happily spend all the time necessary. I trust that you fit into the latter category Ben!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a Christian. I was an Agnostic/Atheist prior to my decision to put my faith in Jesus. I was guilty, like many other persons who critique Christianity of not fully grasping the complex nature of religious faith. I spend much of my time these days speaking to people at my local cafe. It is often difficult for me, because I understand what it is like to look at Christianity from the outside, not understanding or having the patience to sit through long drawn out answers to what was, in my mind, simple questions.

    The Christian faith is more than reasonable and logical if one were to take the time to consider all the evidence. Academic atheists have some good arguments, but I find the average atheist at a cafe – and I would put Catherine Deveny in that category (she is by no means an academic) – are people who understand Christianity like an algebra problem with one too many variables.

    In order to have a beneficial dialogue each side must fully and ACCURATELY understand the opposing possition. Unfortunatly atheists like Catherine Deveny, Richard Dawkins and others don’t really seem to give a rip about what people think, they have their opinions and bugger anyone who disagrees.

    Joshua Ferrara

  • Hi Steve Weeks

    I’d like you to think very carefully now because I would like you to make a commitment.

    You ask for evidence, I ask, what EVIDENCE would you accept?

    I personally do not believe that you will accept any evidence at all, I take this position not because I have the ability to know your thoughts but only because of a text YOU SAY is unreliable. (assuming you have read it)

    The Bible speaks of a scenario of one who finds himself in Hell and desires that one in Heaven would go to warn his brothers of this place.

    “And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”
    (Lk 16:30-31)

    We know this statement is true, as one has risen from the dead yet you remain in unbelief.

    So I believe the challenge is a fair one, it will enable you to seriously consider exactly where you stand, are you committed to death to Atheism or are you sincere in your request for evidence? I ask again, WHAT EVIDENCE WILL YOU ACCEPT?

    However i warn that you must be careful in your response, as the same evidence you say you would accept, I and others may request from you on matters of origin!

    Edi Giudetti

  • Good question, Edi!
    I am a scientist. I require demonstrable evidence of things that affect my work. You probably would not want me to fill one of your root canals with myrrh because I dreamed an angel told me it was a good thing to do. 🙂

    But seriously, what evidence would I accept for the existence of a god or gods?

    Well, it would have to be something pretty striking. How about this:

    I’d like to see my deceased mother (dead and cremated 10 years ago) alive. I would want this to happen in my waking hours and I would like my father and all my brothers and sisters present. I’d want to give her a big hug and feel her presence. A videotape for me to show my children would be a plus. BTW, my mother was the daughter of a minister and died before her time of a disease that could have been prevented.

    Alternatively, if I saw Jesus coming down from the sky in glory and if there were multiple observers of various faith and philosophical traditions present, I would be impressed.

    How about all cancer in the world being cured and permanently prevented for all time? There are plenty of other diseases that could continue to exist, so it wouldn’t be like we were completely off the hook for original sin.

    Those are some ideas. They should be possible:
    Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

    I know where you’re going with your “commitment” thing. You are fixing to ask me how life originated. That’s easy: I don’t know. I, or “we” as a species, may never know. It is something I envision science working on for some considerable time, maybe indefinitely. It is perfectly OK with me if you want to speculate about origins yourself,and disagree with my point of view. Of course, I do not expect to be required to believe your position either.

    Apart from the question of “origins”, you may plan to quiz me about “evolution”. I will simply refer you to many excellent books on that subject because evolution happens. “Natural selection” is the proposed mechanism. It is the best explanation proposed so far for evolution. If a better explanation is proposed, it will be evaluated (tested) and if it passes then it will become the “new” theory. “Creation” is not testable; it is not science. You may believe it without upsetting me a single bit.

    As for the ever-popular thinly veiled threats of death, hell, etc., no, I am not afraid of those. I am expecting to live a (reasonably) long, healthy and productive life, but I realize I have limited influence over that. I do not believe in hell, so that is no problem for me. As for the truth of the statement that Jesus rose from the dead, what proof have you? Scriptural citations do not rise to the level of evidence for me; sorry. You might be interested to hear that I do not seriously doubt that Jesus existed. Many of the teachings attributed to him are useful guidelines for life even in the 21st century. But I don’t believe for a second that he rose from the dead after three days. I would probably have to see another resurrection (Hi, Mom!) to be convinced of that.
    Steve Weeks

  • Thanks Steve

    But your atheism of course has nothing to do with proper science. You are conflating science with scientism, which you seem to have embraced. Science is quite limited in terms of what it can discuss and deal with. But scientism says only scientific knowledge – only that which is derived from scientific methods – is true knowledge.

    But except for anti-theists who have a prior commitment to materialism and naturalism, no one lives that way. The idea that only empirically based knowledge is true is not something derived from the scientific method. It is an a priori faith commitment. You have simply embraced naturalism as your worldview, so the non-material is ruled out ahead of time.

    As I say, it is a nice theory, but too bad about the reality. I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but since you raised the issue of your departed mother, allow me to continue on that theme. The love you had for each other was of course real – it’s just that it makes no sense whatsoever under your materialistic presuppositions. Just how did you measure her love? How much did it weigh?

    Your reductionistic worldview rules out anything which cannot be empirically measured. Love, I am afraid, is not one of those things. Neither, for that matter, are such decidedly non-material things such as truth, justice, beauty, consciousness, and numerous other things which most of us accept as being real and not in need of some empirical verification before we can run with them.

    One suspects that if an atheist’s mother did return from the dead, their faith-based naturalism would mean they would find a way to deny the evidence.

    So please, spare us this idea that being a scientist somehow places you above all this. Science is only part of what truth is all about. Many truths cannot be scientifically proven. There are philosophical truths, ethical truths, mathematical truths, metaphysical truths, logical truths and so on.

    And you are mistaken to confuse operational, or procedural, science with origin science. The evolutionary theory of the origin of the universe has to be accepted on faith as much as any creationist account. The origin of the universe is of course a once off event, and science can only deals with the repeatable and the predictable.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve you say that Christians can believe in Creation without it “upsetting [you] a single bit.” But what if I turned your own statement back on you and said that because evolution is not testable it is therefore not science? Would that upset you?

    And likewise, I could refer you to many excellent books proving that not only does evolution not happen but that it couldn’t have because it defies time tested natural laws.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Ewan, when you say that evolution does not occur it does not upset me one bit. You are, however, mistaken. A good example that is relevant today is the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Some bacteria acquire changes in their genome that allow them to survive in the presence of substances that would previously have killed them. That is “natural selection”, the mechanism by which evolution occurs. Feel free to disbelieve this, by all means, but let’s hope you never come down with MRSA, because prayer won’t help you.

    It is understandable why evolution might be difficult to accept, mainly because it happens so darned slowly. That’s why the bacterial antibiotic resistance phenomenon is useful: the generation time is short enough that changes can be observed in real time. Evolution is the best explanation there is for the variety of life we see presently; when another one is presented it may be preferred, but to be “science” it will have to be testable. BTW, I would agree that ~6,000 years is not enough time. If you are a “Young Earth” believer, then I can’t help you. 😉
    Steve Weeks

  • Atheism is really a bankrupt theology. The essence of our way of life comes from the ten commandments. If you don’t accept this, you have to live by another creed. That means ditching the basis of these ten commandments which means it is OK to steal; it is OK to tell lies; it is OK to commit adultery; it is OK to rebel against your parents; it is OK to help yourself to your neighbour’s possessions.
    The social reformers who do believe their own definition of right and wrong which usually means that all these things are OK have made society a dangerous place to live because they believe that there is no such thing as right and wrong, it is in the mind of the beholder, so I am free to follow my personal nirvana.
    Roger Marks

  • Thanks Steve

    But of course all you have done is provide an example of micro-evolution, which no one denies takes place. What we are talking about here is macro-evolution. There is a huge difference between the two, and as a scientist, I would have thought you were aware of this fundamental difference.

    And I am afraid your arrogance and contempt for others is showing. Billions of people around the world and throughout history have believed in the efficacy of prayer. And millions can testify to answered prayer. Once again your reductionist naturalism (an unscientific faith commitment) is showing. As I say, this is simply the narrow-minded bigotry of scientism, not the genuine stuff of real science.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • But Steve, I do believe in natural selection and the example of the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, it’s just that this is not an example of evolution. You have fallen for the hand waving of the evolution propagandists. Evolution requires mutations that increase the information or complexity of an organism. Closer examination of the bacteria examples to which you refer will show that it involves either gene swapping with another bacteria or else an information losing mutation which leads to loss of function. The result is no nett gain of information.

    If mutation cannot account for an increase of information then no amount of alleged deep time will help you here so it is a moot point about the age of the earth.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Well, Bill and Ewan,
    You can give yourselves a mutual pat on the back. I do not have the necessary patience to carry on a discussion here. Others more knowledgeable and articulate than myself would probably not do much better. Enjoy your world view, and feel free to avail ourselves of the fruits of the labors of those who use their minds to improve the human condition. I’m thinking here of medicine, in particular. I’m confident the safeguards built into the Constitution, along with the efforts of those more knowledgeable and articulate than myself, will keep the US the kind of place where I can live and raise my family.
    Best regards,
    Steve Weeks

  • The other mechanism involved in the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that I should have mentioned, is that of selection working on a population that contains a pre-existing percentage of resistant bacteria. In this example too there is no nett gain of information.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Thanks Steve,
    MRSA is real PROOF of natural selection for a beneficial mutation. MRSA’s has an impaired ability to absorb food, and so is safe from a fatal dose of antibiotic! It is less fit than it’s cousins with a healthy appetite. I.e. it shows devolution not evolution: it has no new info.
    Can you find “an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome”? Prof Richard Dawkins couldn’t answer! Can you? If not, maybe you should question your faith in evolution and check out the Bible.
    Peter Newland

  • Thanks Steve

    But I am afraid your final parting shots also backfire big time, and do great disservice to the atheist cause. Consider your mention of medicine, and your silly implication that faith is anti-intellectual and therefore anti-medicine, while unbelief is somehow rational and therefore pro-medicine. Let me refer you to just some Bible-believing scientists and their contributions (directly or indirectly) to medicine:

    Louis Pasteur (bacteriology, pasteurisation, vaccination and immunization)
    Joseph Lister (antiseptic surgery)
    Rudolph Virchow (pathology)
    Robert Boyle (chemistry)
    Georges Cuvier (comparative anatomy)
    Gregor Mendel (genetics)
    James Simpson (chloroform, gynecology)

    And then there is the creation of the Red Cross, the founding of hospitals, and the charitable works of many, all springing from a robust Christian faith. But since you obviously have a built in bias against people of faith, then I guess you prefer that all these contributions to medicine were not made?

    As to Constitutional safeguards, you are again out of your depth. It was the Judeo-Christian worldview that gave rise to the US Constitution, and the many benefits derived from it. It is exactly because of biblical Christianity that you enjoy the many blessings of Western democracy in general and the US in particular.

    So respectfully, I can see why you are bowing out of this debate. Your dwindling supply of threadbare atheist cliches and objections really do not measure up (these atheist red herrings and straw men never were very persuasive).

    May I humbly suggest that in the name of intellectual integrity and rationality, you reconsider your blind faith in scientism, and let the evidence lead where it may? Having a faith-based opposition to evidence which rattles your naturalist worldview is simply going to be too hard to sustain, and will cause you a lot of grief.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill, Thanks again for the enormous effort you put into this site, I have only briefly broused this argument as my baby is keeping me very busy, but I have a few small points I’d like to make.
    Firstly, one of the most overworked atacks against Christianity is the ‘I/my family member/friend/ were abused or mistreated by a Priest/Christian/in a Christian school. I do not dismiss their suffering, but I find the utilisation of it as an excuse to attack Christianity hypocritical. Do these people deride and condemn education as a whole because of the abuse in schools, or homosexuals because of the high incidence of homosexual pedophilia.
    People who choose to reject Christianity because it’s teachings make them uncomfortable will find any excuse to do so. Many even go as far back as the reformation.
    Secondly the attacks on WYD and its pilgrims are a gross embarassment for Australians. Almost every nation in the world was represented at this event, you would imagine that we would want to give the pilgrims a good impression of our country. Instead, a vast proportion of media reports spoke of bratty sooking and complaining, along with offensive comments. We had two pilgrims from a small community in New Caledonia called ‘The Beatitudes’ staying with us. They were the most grateful, polite, innocent women you could meet. In the week they were with us we were introduced to the other members of their community. One of these members was a deightful, gentle, shy french nun. You can only imagine our disgust and embarassment when this nun had a condom thrown in her face by an ‘anti Pope’ protestor. In her graciousness the nun smiled at them and kept walking. I ask you to consider honestly and without bigotry whether the atheist or the Christian is truly ‘insulting, offending and vilifying’ as argued in the first few comments in this piece.
    Catherine Dodd

  • Hi Ewan and Peter,

    You both made reference to an organism acquiring new information. I am not really sure what you mean by new information. Within the family of one specific bacteria for example, there will be some that have immunity to antibiotics while others will not. This we know. I am curious to know your explanation as to why some have immunity and others do not if they are all from the same gene pool? It is also interesting to note that some people have immunity to the HIV virus. Why?

    Now if your definition of new information relates to the expansion of the gene pool within a species then I suggest you have a read about retro viruses. Apparently our own DNA contains up to 8% of these. There is also a disturbing but never the less interesting integration of a retro virus (KoRV) occurring to our beloved Koalas as we speak. The problem is there are no positive benefits to this virus so the future of the Koala maybe bleak. If a retro virus integrates itself into the germ line of the host (ie egg, sperm cells) then all it offspring will carry that extra DNA. Now as a theory, imagine that this retro virus had some positive effect on the host and the environment had changed in a way that suited this change. What might you think would happen? Am I suggesting a new species here? Not at all but it will be slightly genetically different from other Koalas. Only time will tell us what happens after that.

    The truth is we will probably never witness the evolution of a new multi cellular species because of the lengths of time and environmental factors that are needed for it to happen. There is no experiment that I am aware of that will demonstrate it either. The best we can do is look at what has happened over time and try and makes some sense from it.

    I am currently reading through various articles on CreationOnTheWeb to get a different view on things.

    Ben Green

  • Ben, you are on the right track. Viruses: introduce information new to a specific individual organism; may transfer info from one type of organism to another, different type of, organism; but the info is pre-existing info rather than first-time-new info. Most viruses, zillions of them, are harmless or beneficial. The harmful ones that have been researched, like the harmful bacteria tested, tend to be mutations of good viruses/bacteria that have lost information, often lost control of something. So instead of producing a beneficial protein they produce a harmful one, or they just never stop producing a ‘good function’. Too much growth causes cancer or tumour etc; too much secretion of fluid can cause death by exhaustion, dehydration etc.
    The Bible says that everything God made was very good. Presumably God loves variety and made all creation to be flexible; able to cope with a wide variation of conditions. Hence the original gene pools would have been super rich and could cope with anything – so there was no disease. But with sin and the ‘fall’ I assume that mutations occurred and then natural selection resulted in the impoverishment of the gene pool. Hence devolution, sickness, extinction etc. Chance can result in loss of some genes from a particular individual, so some organisms will lose resistance to a particular disease. Some will be immune to Leprosy, others to HIV etc. Natural selection can make this better or worse, but it does not give truly new genes. All this is consistent with what we observe in the fossil record.
    Evolutionists have a problem if they are unable to demonstrate how new functions (the first: life; fin; leg; wing etc) came into being. Without such evidence, evolution remains a fairy tale for adults who refuse to consider the obvious – that perhaps life is actually designed. The evidence seems conclusive: if no evolutionary trend can be identified in experiments with zillions of generations of super-fast-breeding bacteria tested over many years, then there is zilch chance of the first mammal (with breeding times of weeks) could ever have enough time to evolve. Minor detail also that all known mutations are devolution rather than evolution.
    Peter Newland

  • There is a time in all our lives when we have the opportunity to believe, our first rejection of faith in God certainly occurred when we were much younger. This decision, often based on nothing other than the in the words of those around them, and often compounded by the little time spent in quiet contemplation (think of todays distracted i-pod generation, just one of the numerous mechanisms influencing the ‘dumbing down’ of society) render’s further enlightenment to truth impossible.

    The Bible teaches that we have no excuse, all can believe, but all won’t: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and YE WOULD NOT!” (Lk 13:34)

    Rather, when their arguments are realized for their baseless positions they place their fingers in their ears and “la, la, la, I’m not listening” as a child who would hear nothing but themselves.

    We need to pray for Steve and the other atheists here.

    Edi Giudetti

  • “I’m confident the safeguards built into the Constitution, along with the efforts of those more knowledgeable and articulate than myself, will keep the US the kind of place where I can live and raise my family.”

    I am very interested in this comment by Steve Weekes, since in the last 30 years the secular humanist/atheist has fought an all out war against the US constitution which is squarely based on the Christian Faith. They have successfully taken control of the government, education and the media. And what is the end result of their wonderful theology of self? Situation ethics, permissivness, free love, sexually active youth, adultery, fornication, perversion, abomination, abortion, rampant STDs, epidemic HIV/AIDS, increasing teen crime, marriage breakdown, rampant alcohol abuse, child sex abuse, paedophillia, suicide and now homosexuality.

    All a result of a failed theology that some evolutionists don’t believe. Thomas Huxley said “Evolution was not an established theory but a tentative hypothesis, an extremely valuable and even probable hypotheisis, but a hypothesis none the less.”

    Dr. D’Arcy Thompson concedes “In the study of evolution and in our attempts to trace the descent of the animal kingdom, our scores of years’ study of The Origin of Species has had an unlooked for and disappointing result…This failure to solve the cardinal problems of evolutionary biology is a very curious thing.”

    Homer Duncan, a biologist from the Smithsonian Institute said “There is no evidence which would show man developing step by step from lower forms of life. There is nothing to show that man was in any way connected with monkeys…He appeared suddenly and in substantially the same form as he is today…There is no such thing as missing links….There is not the slightest evidence that one of the major groups arose from any other.

    Roger Marks

  • Bodybuilding Is An Answer
    Hi Bill. I would like to put in my ‘two bob’ on the matter. I agree that responding to atheists like Catherine Deveny should certainly involve prayer and careful consideration. We can do more harm than good if we are running off of our emotions. I’d like to bring another suggestion to the table- one that is probably not controversial among believers but one that I believe calls for consideration and perhaps discussion: bodybuilding. We need to be co-laboring, building with God what Jesus Christ said He would build- His Church. He said “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt.16:18). I believe ‘giving an answer’ (1 Pet. 3:15), by writing blogs and letters to editors, but I think we can all see that sometimes they are trampled underfoot. I would point out that the rest of that verse (1 Pet.3:15) says that we are to give an answer to those that ask! Many times our opinions are not wanted and are utterly despised. The Church may also be despised but the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Sometimes it seems that hell is prevailing over e.g. our letters to the editor.
    Alex Parer

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