It is a circular argument, but it has been made often, from David Hume down to present day sceptics. There is no believable evidence for genuine miraculous healings, they say. But what about all the stories of people being healed? We know they can’t be true, they say, because no-one has ever shown scientifically that healing can occur.
So New Testament scholar Craig Keener decided to break the circle.
There are a number of things about our world, and about the christian faith, that seem hard to explain if God is loving – for example, the pain and suffering people experience, hell, the commands in the Old Testament to kill and even wipe out whole tribes and God’s disapproval of homosexuality.
But this is only one side of the story. At the same time, a significant number of people from a non-religious background are choosing to believe. I have taken an interest in finding some of their stories.
Statistics (see below) show that a significant number of people, active church members and apparently believers, are leaving their churches and in many cases leaving the faith. In a sense (from an insider’s viewpoint) they are like David Bridie’s deserters.
What can people tell about us by the way we treat our deserters?
LLM posted an interesting quote from Tim Keller in her blog, Enough Light. Here is a part of it:
“in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you’ (Matthew 21:31).
I have previously posted on the various views christians have on who will be saved (Can only christians be saved?). The exclusivists say only those who specifically believe in Jesus. The universalists say everyone, eventually. And the inclusivists say anyone who follows whatever light they have been given.
Recently I came across a quote that showed Billy Graham’s view.
Evangelical christianity has historically had a strong emphasis on personal salvation, which it sees as coming from repentance and faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. This is generally seen as the main purpose of Jesus’ life and death.
This basic evangelical teaching can be drawn from the letters of Paul (although some theologians question this), but it isn’t so easily seen in the life and teachings of Jesus. Perhaps we need to re-think?
I don’t believe in labelling myself, apart from being a follower of Jesus – Paul points out the dangers of this in 1 Corinthians 1-3. But it remains true that my formative years as a christian were within a moderate, moderately reformed, evangelical church. And I am very thankful for that time.
But evangelicalism is under attack, not just from without, but also from within, as evangelical believers increasingly question its underpinnings. This well-written, absorbing and thought-provoking book (A Restless Faith: Leaving fundamentalism in a quest for God, by Keith Mascord) is another milestone along that path.
Another common argument used against christian belief is that the New Testament is unreliable and historically inaccurate. The argument focuses on a number of apparent inconsistencies in the gospel accounts, which, it is said, make the accounts unbelievable.
I’ve always been interested in astronomy and cosmology, and sometimes wish I’d studied it. I find the universe fascinating and amazing to look at, think about and learn about.
Cosmology has also always been of interest to theists, as it seems to point to the existence of a creator God. The cosmological argument and, in particular, the teleological argument (see The universe points to God) have evolved over centuries based on the discoveries of cosmology. And therefore, of course, it is of interest to atheists, who wish to combat the arguments.
I want to introduce you to one atheist physicist with expertise in cosmology who I think you ought to know – an Aussie, Luke Barnes.
Another common argument used against christian belief is that the New Testament has been significantly changed since it was first written, so we cannot have any confidence in we are reading. Who knows if it is an accurate reflection of what the original authors wrote?
Eminent scholar Bart Ehrman’s 2005 book Misquoting Jesus outlines his view of “how radically the text has been altered over the years”.
Is the situation really as ‘bad’ as that? What are the facts? I have spent some time checking the matter out.
Continuing my discussion of common arguments used against christians.
This post: arguments that seek to undermine faith in Jesus by arguing that the gospels aren’t reliable as history, or that we can know little factual about Jesus, or that Jesus could not have been divine.
In philosophy, an idea is incoherent if it is self contradictory, and cannot even be properly defined.
There are many things about the idea of God that some atheists think are incoherent. Here is a brief summary and comment on seven arguments, all of which I have seen presented, sometimes by philosophers, as serious and telling objections to the idea and existence of God.
This post continues the series into preparing disciples of Jesus to stand against attacks on their faith, and specifically on arguments unbelievers often use against christians. I have seen every one of these arguments used in books or on the internet, even some that are clearly not very effective. Several arguments are based (loosely) on science.
Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) is one of the fundamentals of the christian faith. The Cosmological argument attempts to use the universe to show that God exists. The universe couldn’t cause itself to exist, the argument says, nor could it exist for no reason, so an external agent (what else but God?) must have caused it.
Despite various attempts to refute the argument, it remains a strong one, not least because of its basic common sense. But some atheists have argued that quantum physics shows that the universe could indeed have arisen out of nothing.