A few weeks back, influential New York minister Tim Keller spoke at a forum run by the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, during which he made some comments on the issue of gay marriage. What he said attracted a lot of discussion, but was apparently misunderstood by some, and he subsequently issued an explanation.
His comments merit further thought.
I was asked recently how many christian denominations there are worldwide. It’s hardly an important question, but some critics of christianity use the number of 30,000 to 40,000 to argue that a true God couldn’t be behind christianity because god would communicate better.
So I thought I’d check it out.
I read a news report today, in the wake of the horrifying cinema shootings in Denver, about statements made by members of the Westboro Baptist church.
I don’t live in the US, so I don’t know a lot about this church, but the statements were hateful and insensitive to those mourning the trauma and loss of this shocking event.
What is the future of the church as we know it in the western world?
I have written about this many times (see The future for the church), believing that much needs to change. It is like the tide is coming in, the island the churches are sitting on is shrinking, our feet are wet, yet things are just going on as normal.
But bit by bit, the evidence keeps coming in (just like the tide), that one way or another, things will indeed change.
Jesus famously said “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58), but since the fourth century, christians have been building enormous cathedrals for him. Why?
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.
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.
We can read the statistics which show that, in most western countries, church attendance has fallen in the last century. In some cases it is still falling, though in others it has levelled out. The ‘leavers’ are not necessarily giving up all belief in God – many list themselves as ‘not committed’ – but some are choosing to be atheists.
But this is all statistics. There is also a human face to these changes.
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.
More arguments unbelievers often use against christians. These ones are common, but not very good, but at least they provide a little amusement.
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.
We have been considering why believers may give up their faith and how we may train disciples to think better about their beliefs and so be better able to stand up against attacks. We have looked at some reasons to believe (and we will look at some more).
Now it is time to consider the arguments sceptics may use to attack christian belief – arguments against God, the Bible, Jesus and faith.
The stories keep on appearing – there’s definitely something happening here.
This time it’s the story of a keen mission-minded christian who was condemned by the ‘doctrine police’ for questioning a few of the less important doctrines of some sections of the church. So he left the church, to serve God in other ways.
Read Jeremy’s story at Till He Comes.
A recent survey of American religion reveals some interesting facts
Robert Putnam (Harvard) and David Campbell (Notre Dame) undertook extensive research of religious attitudes in the US, and late last year published the results of their research in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen an outline of their findings and an interview with David Campbell.
Earlier today, in God without religion?, I referenced a book which warns us that religion can lead to us getting “caught up in obeying Old Testament laws instead of experiencing New Testament freedom.”
In a comment, Julie suggested otherwise:
“The biggest problem with religion is that Christians can get caught up in experiencing New Testament freedom and fall into the heresy of antinomianism and ethical permissiveness.”
It’s a valid concern. But is she right?
A friend of mine (G’day T!) sent me this link to a new book called God Without Religion by Andrew Farley (he’s pastor of a church in Lubbock, Buddy Holly’s home town). I think it’s worth a look. Here are some quotes from the article: