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Commenting on an atheist site

I lost some of the best years of my life last month to an atheist blog.

With that in mind, I was amused at the recent furore over comment moderation at richarddawkins.net.  People are surprised at the vitriol spewed forth under pseudonymous cover in the under-belly of RichardDawkins.net?  A forum devoted to one of the most vituperative fundamentalisms going?  Does this shock anyone?

A couple of weeks ago I commented on a well respected and well-read atheist blog and was sworn at and wished dead in the most imaginatively vicious ways.  Compared to the abuses I and other Christians suffered there, the "rat's rectum" comparisons that flew between fellow-atheists at Dawkins' site sound like Pollyanna.

Anyway, I thought I'd try to redeem my experience by reflecting on some things I learnt, and some things I should have:

One reflection on my experience was written during the interchanges: Evangelists and Apologists Note: The six things that have already happened.

Here are some other reflections:

  1. Reason flows from the heart.  These guys raised a banner loud and proud for reason, logic, the scientific method, etc,.   But there was nothing particularly reasoned or scientific about their manner of argument.  They were well read intelligent people (PhD students etc) but much of their commenting consisted in caps locked swear words.  "Logic" was their slogan not their method.
  2. They constantly appealed to a logical high-ground without any thought as to whether they were allowed one - being materialists and all!
  3. Pointing out this inconsistency didn't seem to get me anywhere (though you never know how non-commenting readers are responding).
  4. Everyone deals in circularities:
    1. I believe the bible is the word of God because in it God speaks
    2. You believe the scientific method is the arbiter of what's true because it's proved itself effective when judged by science.
  5. Everyone has ultimate authorities which, by the nature of the case, cannot be authenticated by outside sources - ie the scientific method cannot be tested by the scientific method.  One guy admitted that this self-validation hasn't happened yet but that one day science would definitely be able to prove the scientific method by the scientific method.  There's faith for you.  Which leads to...
  6. Everyone is faith based.  We all proceed from assumptions which we take to be true and then move forwards on the basis of them.
  7. I kept getting asked for 'evidence'.  My responses were in three broad categories, first I'd point to Christ risen from the dead, second I'd simply quote Scriptures.  But probably the most effective thing was to say "everything!  Everything reveals the LORD Jesus to you."
  8. Therefore evangelism is the invitation to the unbeliever to step inside the world in which Jesus is LORD and look again.  Basically it's saying: "Let me tell you a story about a triune God, the world He made and the Son who redeems it.  Now look again at the world through the Lens of Jesus.  Now do you see why self-giving love is the greatest thing?  Now do you see why trust and beauty, evil and forgiveness, truth and goodness are real beyond any scientific analysis?  In other words, now you can take seriously the most basic aspects of your human existence and not run against the grain of reality all the time."
  9. In this sense theology is a science.  It begins with self-authenticating premises and moves out in faith to investigate .  This investigation is shaped by the Object of knowedge.  Since the Object of knowledge is the Speaking God, the method is to hear His Word.  The premises of our enquiry after knowledge (e.g. Jesus is LORD, the bible is true etc) are not falsifiable in the way the materialists demand they be.  But then the scientific premises (e.g. that true knowledge is verified by the scientific method etc) aren't falsifiable either.  Premises are the light by which we see.  It's their success in seeing that recommends them.
  10. The failure of "science alone" to see the world was very evident to me.  It didn't seem particularly evident to them.  That Beethoven's 9th was a series of compression waves was certain for them.  That it was "beautiful" was a verdict they couldn't make with anything like the same certainty.
  11. The atheists who commented were very clearly captured by the vision of "the onward march of science", demolishing ignorance and dispelling superstition.  There was clearly a love for scientific progress that had won their hearts.  Nothing less than a greater love could ever displace this.  All their calls for "evidence, evidence" were simply calls for reality to fit into their paradigm - to serve their greatest love.  They need a new paradigm, or better - a new love.
  12. The call for "evidence, evidence" in the sense that they mean is a desire to be confirmed in their self-imposed naturalistic prison.  What counts as 'evidence' for them is only that which can be assessed according to their naturalistic paradigm.  This is simply a refusal from the outset to hear a Voice from above.  Again it is a matter of hard-heartedness, however seriously they wish to be taken intellectually.
  13. My lowest point came in the heat of battle when I fired off a comment justifying my intellectual credibility.  I'm ashamed of what I took pride in at that moment.  I should have borne shame and taken pride in the foolishness of the gospel, allowing Christ to vindicate me.  The cause of the gospel was hindered rather than helped by the assertion of my academic credentials (which weren't that great anyway!).  This is especially so given what I've been arguing above.
  14. Having said all this, I think it was a worth-while exercise.  Many of the commenters were American 'de-converted' evangelicals and knew a lot of bible.  The hurt from previous scars was palpable and I hope that a charitable Christian voice might at least temper some of the "all Christians are bigots" tirades that otherwise spiral on in these forums.
  15. On the other hand, some of the commenters were angry Brits and others who seemed to know very little of Christian things.  All they've heard has been from other atheists.
  16. And of course there were many more who I'm sure just 'listened'.  My time at Speaker's Corner taught me that even as you engage the Muslim apologist in front of you, you're aiming at the wide-eyed apprentices hanging off his coat-tails.  Who knows how the Lord will use these words?
  17. Turning the other cheek hurts but it's powerful.  I trust that (#13 and other lapses notwithstanding) perhaps the most useful aspect of the interchange was the attempt to model Christ in the way I commented.
  18. The absolute hatred for Christians is frighteningly palpable.  The hatred that's there in the comments sections will rise more and more into the public realm, that seems pretty certain to me.  But if we're surprised and outraged let's get a grip - no soldier should act all offended and hurt when the enemy actually shoots bullets at them!
  19. Just as Stephen Fry speaks of descending into the "stinking, sliding, scuttling" floor of the internet, engaging in this kind of way can be the faintest taste of what the LORD Jesus did in descending to a world that hates Him.  (It can be a total waste of time too, but I think there is a time and a place for it).  I spent a few hours in an internet forum.  His whole life He lived and loved and spoke and served among a hatred that literally tore Him apart.  He's the One we proclaim.  His attitude is the attitude we take.  And as we join Him (in big ways and small) in cross-bearing love, we get to know His enduring grace that much more.
  20. There is a time for shaking dust off your feet.  Some need to spend a little longer in the battle.  But probably people like me (who have to be right!) should quit sooner.  :)

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33 thoughts on “Commenting on an atheist site

  1. Heather

    That cartoon always cracks me up.

    Couple thoughts (surprised?)

    Summary of atheistic thinking:

    Professing to be wise, they became fools
    and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.
    Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.
    For they changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:22-25

    I know the anti-gay lobby loves to throw that passage around in support for that position, but it has much farther reaching implications. You've detailed some of that here. When we're cut off from the only true Source of light, wisdom, truth and knowledge, there is nothing left but darkness, foolishness and lies. And if the Spirit of God is not occupying a person's heart...another spirit may well move in.

    14. Yes, there seem to be many American evangelicals who have been beat up by a faulty system of empty religiosity. Instead of learning to sort out the bad and hold fast to that which is good, many end up throwing everything out and embracing the concept that there is no way to know anything beyond what the naturalistic human experience can substantiate. Very sad.

    16. It is easy to forget that for every person you actively engage, there can be 10 or more observing. It is always worthwhile to conduct one's self in a manner that brings glory to the life-changing effect of the Gospel.

    18. I have been shocked when happening upon certain atheist sites. And, I have to admit that I've never been able to bring myself to comment on openly hostile threads as I tend to be a bit thin-skinned when it comes to personal insult. The darkness and filth can almost be "felt"--even through the computer screen. It brings to mind the palpable darkness of Egypt during the plagues of Moses' time. Man without Truth is a horror to behold and it is important to remember the very real spiritual battle that rages invisibly around us.

    20. Yep. And it takes both maturity and Godly wisdom to be able to know when to walk away.

    Looks as though this experience has mostly been good for you, Glen. The Lord is so faithful to grow us up according to His plan, and in His perfect timing!

    God bless.

  2. Glen

    Hey Heather,

    You're right about 'feeling' the harshness of the comments. I'm not sure what to think of the peculiar viciousness of the atheist blogs. I know well that Christian blogs can get pretty nasty but it's passive-aggressive-Christian-nasty (which is still terrible, terrible, terrible!) not violent-nasty. But is that the only difference? Is it just the flesh coming out in a different register? Don't know.

    We all have the same flesh and the same capacity for this kind of evil. Maybe it's just that Christians can wish eternal torments on each other (under the guise of 'leaving room for God's wrath') while atheists have to visit hell on people now.

    Not sure.

  3. Heather

    I’m not sure what to think of the peculiar viciousness of the atheist blogs.

    Glen,

    I'm not going to presume to "teach" you. But would point back to Paul's reminder that we "wrestle not against flesh and blood".

    Personally, I believe that the overt filth we see in much of the atheistic community is a culmination of what Adam started in the Garden. He said "I will be god for myself" and determined to be his own authority by choosing to help himself to that which had been forbidden. In doing so, he spiritually sided with Satan's rebellion and (however inadvertently) submitted to his leadership.

    Although we see the effect on a physical plane, atheism is demonically inspired and always has been. It is the concept of man-as-god coming to it's full, disgusting fruition. The worship of human intellect is the practice of this religion and sovereign-Creator denying "scientific discovery" provides the supporting text for their "sermons".

    Romans 1 outlines the order of man's fall. First woman (our society promotes radical feminism and earth *goddess* worship) then man (open perversion of the male role). In this we see the destruction of the work of God's hand in all of the wicked things fallen man will do (abortion and child abuse reflect this evil result and is just a whitewashed modern version of ancient Moloch worship). These things have been mainstays of pagan worship for centuries. Atheism now forwards all three of these evils as "lifestyle options" with man being openly promoted as ultimate authority rather than some statue.

    You are right in saying that our own fallen flesh is perfectly capable of producing plenty of evil. Those who truly belong to Christ are necessarily limited by the restraining work of the Holy Spirit. We recognize evil as being contrary to God's nature and are learning to detest it as the Lord teaches and matures us. Even "mean" Christians who are still carnal in their leanings can be approached by a brother and lovingly offered correction when necessary. There is no such common ground on which to appeal to an atheist. The Lord must first convict of rebellion against Him. One who has not been broken will not seek healing.

  4. theoldadam

    I think you are right, Glen.

    We ought listen to what Jesus told us to do when people reject the message about Him.

    Leave them.

    I usually throw it out there, maybe a few times. And then that's it. The Word will do whatever it will do...or not.

    Thanks.

  5. Gav

    Some one has to put themselves out there and tell the Gospel. Thanks for doing that Glen. Theoldadam is right though (you too Heather).

    Last night I heard a story about a bloke in George st, and I think his name was George. He gave out tracts for years and years. Then after some amazing amount of time he retired. A Pastor after so many years finally tracked him down and told him many stories of people that had come to faith that was through him. Apparently he cried lots and it was all emotional and stuff and he said that was the first he'd heard that any good come of it.

    So who knows the seeds you have sown.....and its God that does the convincing / converting.....not us. Our job is to just tell it.

    Of course I know you learned this in preppy class and you dont need slow 40 yr old telling you anything you already know but I reckon what you did was worth encouraging.....for you that is, I'll stick with the less agressive people. ;)

    Well done again mate.

  6. Hiram

    That picture is brilliant.

    I enjoyed this, man.

    I had a somewhat humbling experience when I argued with a polygamist/unitarian/gnostic about the Deity of Christ. It showed me what Scripture teaches about salvation: With men it is impossible. Only God the Holy Spirit can open a man's eyes. I can argue, but I need to know when to call it quits and shake the dust off of my feet.

    Only Christ can cause us to reason correctly.

    -h.

  7. Bird Brain

    Glen, about your comment number 13; Is it that it's better to not 'stoop to an atheist level' (in showing off knowledge) and simply give him/her the gospel and trust Christ will work with it? (Us planting seeds&God making it grow etc.)
    Isn't knowledge shown when quoting Bible?
    BB

  8. Glen

    Not wanting to appear noble in suffering for the gospel here! Just commented on a blog is all. :)

    Speaking face to face with family and those who know me - that's real gospel work!

    Gav - was it Arthur Stace, the "Eternity" guy you heard about? Or was it someone else.

    Hiram - yeah, for myself I like argument too much by nature and probably need to walk away sooner. OldAdam's right that some of why I don't walk away sooner is down to whether I trust the Word to do its work.

    The Holy Spirit *must* work, but He *does* work in the Word, so that's what I hold out and it won't return empty.

    Hey BB,

    That's exactly it. Some plant, some water, God gives the growth.

    And it's a bit silly to say "God says..." and then to think I'm bolstering His word by mentioning what university I went to.... !! What's that got to do with the "God says" bit??

    sigh. Good thing it's ultimately down to His work and not our credentials or our technique.

  9. pgjackson

    Thanks for this. I particularly enjoyed points 8-12 - I think you speak with insightful and piercing gospel-wisdom there about a number of things.

  10. Steve Kryger

    Hi Glen, really enjoyed reading this post. Great reflections, and it sounds like your engagement was well worth the experience.

    I've similarly tried to engage with atheists recently - on blogs, and via Twitter. It was painful, difficult, and most of the time felt futile.

    I've discovered few atheists who wouldn't have at a previous stage described themselves as Christians, or been exposed to the Bible (e.g. at school or Sunday School). Speaking generally of course, I've observed that much of the anti-Christian spray seems to be responding to past hurt.

    My website was linked to from this post - "Five things that would make atheists seem nicer" (http://st-eutychus.com/2009/five-things-that-would-make-atheists-seem-nicer/) which directed a lot of traffic my way, and also revealed to me more of the atheist sentiment.

    As you also commented, the level of hatred towards Christians is extreme. I've been on various threads where atheists have stated that if it was within their means, they would kill every Christian. There is a lot of anger bubbling under the surface (and sneaking above the surface too).

    I concluded this exercise in engagement by considering that it was a bit of a futile experience, but you've helped me to consider some of the things I can learn from these discussions. Thanks.

  11. Gav

    I did hear the Eternity guy story the same night but I think its different though. Great examples!

  12. Paul Blackham

    Glen,

    I've been there. Point 19 is very powerful. The internet allows people to express what is going on in their heart in a way that normal 'civilized' society does not. The level of hatred is staggering and unrelenting. No mercy.

    Personally, I find the hatred on Christian forums more painful, more upsetting. In the dark hours at the bottom of a depressive cycle, it is the Christian bad behaviour that summons the dementors.

    I also agree that the dark under-belly of the militant atheists represents a very real possibility for the future of our society at large.

    The great temptation is to want to be 'reasonable' - i.e. to find a non-'religious' foundation that will show us to be wise and the atheist to be foolish. The only foundation is Jesus. He is why we believe in God.

    Don't give up completely. I can only go back into fray every now and then because it is so costly. We need to learn so many lessons as we do this. We don't need better arguments - though we do need our thinking to be much more centred on Jesus. The greatest need is to learn so much more grace and love and patience.

    The toughest fundamentalists I ever dealt with were only reached through the witness of life - never by the arguments alone.

    How have our Russian and Chinese brothers and sisters managed to bear witness to Jesus when the atheists run the country? Can they teach us how to do it in these new contexts?

  13. Heather

    Paul Blackham said:
    The internet allows people to express what is going on in their heart in a way that normal ‘civilized’ society does not. The level of hatred is staggering and unrelenting. No mercy.

    True. The internet allows for personal accountability for one's behavior to be minimized. The Bible does caution believers to not be shocked when it is made obvious that the "world" wants no part of Christ. It hates Him. It will hate His people.

    And, I agree that even though the language and open hostility of atheism is ugly, it can be far more disturbing when professing believers tear out each others throats.

    How have our Russian and Chinese brothers and sisters managed to bear witness to Jesus when the atheists run the country? Can they teach us how to do it in these new contexts?

    I assume this was a rhetorical question but because I've got a big mouth, I'll answer it. A few years ago, a friend of ours said "What the American church needs is a good old fashioned dose of persecution".

    At the time, I was horrified at what he was suggesting. But he's right. Western society as a whole has taken Jesus Christ for granted. While many individuals have been personally tried and their faith refined, the visible church on a large scale is either corrupt or comatose. Anyone can say "I'm a Christian" because there is very little cost to most of us at this time.

    The Chinese and Russian Christians have been put through the fires of persecution and their loyalty to Christ has been tested and refined. Many of them have nothing left to lose but their own lives and being at home with Jesus is a far more attractive option than the lives many of them live. It is a joy to serve even under horrendous conditions because the reality of suffering for Christ and the hope of resurrection has been brought into sharp focus.

    The history of both the Church and national Israel suggests that the Lord lovingly uses unfavorable societal environment--even severe persecution--as a means to burn out the dross so that His people become more pure as we realize what a treasure we have in Him.

    I would say you are wise to suspect a sharp future rise in openly hateful, militant atheism. Believers who can see it now need to be on our knees, confessing our own lack of devotion (in whatever form it has taken), asking the Lord for direction and interceding for those who have yet to wake up.

  14. Toddy

    Seems to be the season for this kind of thing - currently talking to a 15yr old dawkins convert who had a pop online at our youth group.

    Like you say the hatred bubbling just below the surface is incredible... And the inability to recognise that they are actually basing their worldview on faith too & use circular reasoning...

    Have challenged him to an experiment - He'll read something I suggest (I'm thinking Lee Strobel - case for christ... It deals with resurrection of Christ which is slap bang in the centre of our faith... futile if its untrue and all that ... if anyone has a better suggestion let me know...)

    I'll read something he suggests and then we'll chat.

    Will let you know how I get on... If he declines it - I think I'll do the dust shaking thing as it will be him more interested in arguing than anything else.

    And if you're like me - I don't sleep well when I engage in this stuff...

  15. Glen

    Hey Steve,

    Congratulations by the way! Mum showed me a pic - you've outdone yourself! :)

    I must talk to you about internet and evangelism and using web-presence for the gospel etc etc. I'll read my way through Communicating Jesus and maybe shoot an email your way. Glad you commented!

    Gav - I wonder how many Christians like that we'll meet when Jesus returns - and what an unsung effect they've had!!

    Paul - I'm with you on Christian abuse being more hurtful. I'd also love to think more strategically (and Steve and his site is a great way of doing so!) about engaging evangelistically on the web.

    Heather - no-one *wants* persecution, but if it meant that saying "I'm a Christian" actually had substance, the world would see the suffering Head in His suffering body.

    Toddy - great to hear from you. Good on you for engaging this guy - I think the *way* you do it will be even more important than what you say. I'm not sold on the "Case for Christ" type approach (as though Jesus was in the dock). The kind of thing I like is either the "Seeing and Savouring Jesus Christ" approach (by Piper - yes that's right, Piper! I'm actually recommending a Piper!) which just says "Forget the rest for a minute, Check out Jesus, aint he great?" Or maybe something like (and I haven't read this yet but it looks like my cup of tea) Nate Wilson's 'Notes from a Tilt a Whirl' which just asks people to see the world again through new eyes:

    http://vimeo.com/5600197

    I often think 'evidence-based' approaches can play into the hands of those who have decided in advance what they are and aren't prepared to accept - and they sure as heck aint going to accept anything 'supernatural'. Know what I mean?

    but having said all that, even if you use Strobel it's engaging with gospel love and charity and good humour that will really make the impact.

    Hope it goes well,

    Glen

  16. Heather

    Heather – no-one *wants* persecution, but if it meant that saying “I’m a Christian” actually had substance, the world would see the suffering Head in His suffering body.

    You're right. It is a blessing to be identified with Christ on whatever level He sees fit as He continues to reveal Himself through His people.

    I've wasted a lot of time fretting over the unpleasantness of impending labors and later found I was far too preoccupied during the actual occurrence to really notice anything but what was happening in the moment. And, when it's over, there is has been no doubt it was worth going through the experience. Guess I'll just adopt that as my view on potential persecution and trust that God knows best.

    Okay then. I've got an Egypt installment to enjoy and will be leaving you all in peace.

  17. pgjackson

    One of the things the internet makes hard is exactly this sort of thing - the gospel being given and *'defended' is best done in the context of a bunch of other things. Gospel proclamation most ideally takes place

    - done by someone in the physical presence of others
    - in the context of a known, visible community of believers struggling to live in accordance with and being willing to suffer for the gospel

    and that sort of thing.

    So, by it's very nature, internet evangelism (which we really must engage in - by all means etc.) has some real disadvantages to it imo. It unnaturally divorces the gospel from its most normal apologetic context (the life and serving and love of a christian and the life and serving and loving of a christian community). This is no reason not to do it, and there are still some ways that some of this sort of thing can come through, and the power is in the gospel itself (himself, in fact) - but it presents as a harder task from the human end of things b'cos the medium has some things inherent in it that makes it so.

    Not sure how that furthers things in this discussion. But there's some thoughts to throw on in there anyway.

    [* yeah, who'd defend a lion, etc. I know, but you get what I mean]

  18. Ian

    G'Day everyone.

    I'm a first timer here after following the links from a friend's blog.

    For Toddy;
    I agree with you with the fact that you have trouble sleeping whilst engaging with this stuff. I had a really rough time getting rest two nights ago after watching a program on the ABC (Australia). It's a show called Q&A where there was a debate on Creationism V Evolution which had Richard Dawkins on the panel. Sadly, in defence of the Creationist was 3 politicians, a rabbi, and some bloke who is Australian Of The Year. Needless to say, Dawkins had the crowd in the palm of his hand as they applauded and laughed after everthing he said. I've pasted in the link if anyone's interested.

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2831712.htm

    Just a tip; Don't watch this prior to going to bed. It'll make you frustrated and you'll lose sleep like me!

    This whole thing has inspired me to dust off my copy of Lee Strobel's The Case For Faith which helped me become a Christian about 6 years ago now. I can be quite apathetic in my faith and have never been a big reader of books, but we as believers need to have the full armour and need to be up to scratch when faced with atheist or agnostics. The 'defenders' of Creationism on the ABC the other night definately hadn't done their homework it seemed.

    For Glen;
    I love your work on here mate. I've only just discovered your blog, and am impressed by your knowledge, but I have a question for you.
    Could you explain what you mean by 'evidence-based' approaches playing into the hands of Atheists in your reply to Toddy? Is it a case of them saying that the Bible isn't proven so our evidence is futile?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ian.

  19. Heather

    Ian,

    I know you didn't address me, but I very recently wandered onto an anti-creationist forum and found their cries of "Christian presuppositionalism" to be very interesting. They basically seemed to be saying that since Christians approach available scientific evidence with a pre-existent belief that God is real and is Master designer, then we will naturally interpret said evidence to support Creationism.

    Of course, the atheists step up to the table with their own presupposition and read the evidence in a completely different manner. But I doubt very many would admit they are not as objective as they want others to believe.

    To keep the discussion on an intellectual, physical evidence level keeps things in the naturalistic realm where the humanist feels quite at home and you may never hit at the "heart" of the need for Jesus. You could, however, run in circles indefinitely while chasing down peripheral details.

    That said, I'm sure Glen has a very good explanation concerning what he meant.

  20. pgjackson

    'Of course, the atheists step up to the table with their own presupposition and read the evidence in a completely different manner.'

    That is exactly the issue.

    'But I doubt very many would admit they are not as objective as they want others to believe.'

    And that is one of the biggest myths in our society. Somehow scientific atheists are the only ones who escape the biting cynicism of postmodern epistemology. Somehow they're the only ones still allowed to claim the myth of objectivity for themselves.

  21. Gav

    G'day Ian

    I just read the transcripts......I see why you didnt sleep.

    Even the christians were selling out!!

  22. pgjackson

    Aw man, I've just skimmed over the transcript too. Dawkins actually made more sense/ had a better grasp of Christianity on some points (even though he was essentially marshalling that understanding in order to ridicule) than the Christians, who were dualistic, bashful, apologetic, evasive, and all-too often concerned to be PC. What topped it all was when one of the politicians said he kept his faith private and just used common sense to make his political decisions.

    I mean my brothers and sisters no ill-feeling, and I'm sure it was really hard for them under the spotlight. But that's just depressing.

  23. Heather

    Aw man, I’ve just skimmed over the transcript too. I mean my brothers and sisters no ill-feeling, and I’m sure it was really hard for them under the spotlight. But that’s just depressing.

    I'm not gonna look. Life can be depressing enough.

    I think sometimes Christians make a mistake when we try to prove to atheists that a belief in God is logical. While we see it as logical, they will view the cross as a foolish stumbling block to be kicked at and despised.

    A favorite statement of theirs seems to be that religion is for "weaklings" and mental incompetents --and that ruffles our pride. We don't want to look like drooling idiots who can't think for ourselves, even if we don't see Christianity as simply another "religion".

    But Jesus did die for us foolish weaklings! We shouldn't ever feel the need to apologize for that.

  24. Glen

    G'day Ian,

    I'm watching the programme at the moment. The Christians so far (I'm at 17 mins) have done a *terrible* job. Just *terrible*.

    Interesting that Dawkins reckons science with a 'supreme being' would be totally different to science without one. but then he spends the rest of the time ridiculing those proposing a differing paradigm. Not very scientific!

    On the question of 'evidence-based' apologetics... I wrote this recently which is kind of on the topic:

    https://christthetruth.net/2010/02/13/evangelists-and-apologists-note-the-six-things-that-have-already-happened/

    Essentially I'm against putting Jesus in the dock and saying "Dear unbeliever, you are very intelligent and I want to place you as judge. Please will you consider little Jesus in the dock. Here are a small assortment of 'facts' that I will submit as evidence. I promise I won't submit Christ's own testimony - His word - no, no. I will only submit to you evidence that accords with your own naturalistic presuppositions. But I hope to build a case, point by point, that makes belief in Jesus really quite credible."

    (Sorry Ian - I'm far too sarcastic for my own good)

    For a person convinced by Christ's own testimony (His word), then it can be very interesting to open up Strobel and read about all the accompanying historical stuff. But if we want people to believe on the basis of "evidence" that is *not* Scripture, I think we're seeking to build on very shoddy foundations.

    Happy to interact more if you want to come back at me

    :)

  25. Si Hollett

    "Interesting that Dawkins reckons science with a ’supreme being’ would be totally different to science without one."

    yet science assumes both at the same time - a rational universe that's consistent and not random, but rather patterned (originally, scientists would be happy with the word 'design'), but also one where the supreme creator doesn't do any funny stuff - that idea is closed, ruled out - acts of God are ignored for maths reasons (or because God is ruled out).

    But Dawkins is somewhat right: with the incarnation as a fundamental belief, matter matters (the Greeks could never have invented science as we know it today - pragmatic engineering, the odd person shouting "Eureka!" as the image of God shines through, but little else as matter didn't matter to them). Pantheism also asserts this importance of natural things to an extent. Gnosticism, materialism or deism would find it hard to study science for the sake of just knowing stuff about creation - there has to be a point to it, a use for that knowledge - we're seeing that with funding for science, with take up for science at schools declining.

    Of course, just like the Islamic culture in the couple of centuries when the intellectual power was still ruled by the Christian world-views of the people the Arabs took over, we're in a time where knowledge for knowledge's sake is still (just about) endorsed, where we want to know 'just because' - even if it's useless. There's still the residual memory of why such things are good, the image of God with respect to creativity, naming things, matter mattering, isn't as marred as at other times but that slowly fades...

  26. Pingback: Religion makes scientific claims « The City of God

  27. Ian

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks very much for your replies. You've gone into much detail which I appreciate. A lot more thorough than the ABC's response to a question of mine below:

    Hi,
    I'd just like to ask who at the Q&A program decides who the panellist are for each program? Is it the host or the show's producers? I am particulary interested in who picked the panellists for the Creationism V Evolution debate. Also, was it difficult to get Richard Dawkins on the program, and did he have any prior requests?
    Thanks in advance,
    Ian.

    Hi there Ian,

    The decision on the panel members is a collaborative effort that combines ideas from all the producers in the first instance.

    Warm regards,

    Carol Ayoub
    Producer
    Q & A
    ABC Television

    Now that brief reply leads me to the conclusion that the ABC's producers are either Atheists or just don't know how to select panel members. I mean the Creationist's best defence was coming from our Minister For Agriculture!
    Also, she didn't answer my question about Richard Dawkins. I'll be asking her again first thing Monday. I'm very interested in the answer as I didn't think Dawkins participated in debates anymore. I reckon he saw who the other panellists were prior to the show and thought "I'll win this hands down". I don't think he would have accepted if the Creationists has decent representation.

    I'll let you know how I go next week (If I get a reply).

    Regards,
    Ian.

  28. Steve Kryger

    Hi Ian,

    I was similarly frustrated and had trouble sleeping after watching the show! I spent the show furiously tweeting with friends about our frustrations!

    I wrote some of my reflections on the show here -

    http://www.communicatejesus.com/2010/03/reflections-on-watching-abc1s-qa-featuring-richard-dawkins/.

    As you point out, there was no one on the panel who could match Dawkins on his subject matter. Not that he knows what he's talking about (how does a biologist end up being an expert on the ills of world religion?!) - it's just that there was no one there who could call him on it! It was a classic set-up - he was doomed to look the winner from the start.

  29. Glen

    Where did they find those women? That's what I want to know - the ones in the audience cooing with wide-eyed admiration "Oh Richard, you're so rude and dismissive, like a brainy Basil Fawlty!"

    And who is Steve Fielding, what on earth was he doing on a show like this and why was he so keen to out the PM as a creationist without giving a straight answer himself? Really not very impressed by him.

    If they wanted a real debate with Dawkins they should have selected some very different panellists.

    It was interesting to hear Dawkins say this:

    "If the universe was created by an intelligence, then we are looking at an entirely different kind of scientific theory from if the universe came into existence by natural means. If God or gods had something to do with the creation of life, then we're looking at a totally different kind of biology."

    I think that's absolutely true. And every panellist who then said "Let's have evolution but let's also worship the One who provided the amino acids in the first place" is betraying both the God of the bible and any intellectual credibility if you ask me.

    The science of naturalism is very different to the science you'd do if you believed in God. Even Dawkins admits that.

    Therefore there are two mistakes we could make:

    1) We could to tack on some kind of super-intending god to the science of naturalism. Well whatever god that is, we're clearly not dealing with the God of the bible - we're only dealing with a god of the gaps grudgingly allowed by a scientific method designed to exclude the supernatural!

    2) We could be an atheistic sceintist who ridicules creationists because their science doesn't square with his own. Dawkins absolutely cuts his own throat with this quote if you ask me.

    If you are interested in considering science 'with God' then you need to consider a scientific method that does not exclude divine words from the outset (as the naturalistic method does). Instead, if you want to do science 'with God' - you'd better allow Him to BE God. ie You'd better allow Him to speak, for that to be your authority and then to move out into the world on the basis of His word. That would be good science wouldn't it? If God is God - that would be the only kind of science you *could* do.

    Has Dawkins even begun to consider *that* kind of science as credible? No. He has taken a scientific method designed for naturalism and (not very seriously) tried to apply it to a science he admits MUST be entirely different. And then he's found it absurd. Well no wonder!

    But if he really believed that science 'with God' was entirely different (and that's surely right) then he wouldn't be judging YEC science by naturalistic science. But that's *all* he does!

    Anyway - don't let Him steal any more of your sleep. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed! Even as He looks like a slain Lamb.

  30. Heather

    Where did they find those women? That’s what I want to know-
    You weren't asking seriously, I hope.

    Women are easily deceived and once we've been steeped well enough in the feministic "you don't need a man" tea, we're left wide open to being led by the teachings of (oddly enough) men such as Richard Dawkins.

    And this isn't a problem with only women who are simply rebellious. The lies are free-flowing and easily accessible these days. If the God-fearing men don't step up and lead with conviction, the hearts and minds of even their own wives and daughters can be severely battered by this stuff.

  31. pgjackson

    "If you are interested in considering science ‘with God’ then you need to consider a scientific method that does not exclude divine words from the outset (as the naturalistic method does). Instead, if you want to do science ‘with God’ – you’d better allow Him to BE God. ie You’d better allow Him to speak, for that to be your authority and then to move out into the world on the basis of His word. That would be good science wouldn’t it? If God is God – that would be the only kind of science you *could* do."

    Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes!

  32. Ian

    G'day everyone,

    There was an Atheist convention held in Melbourne over the weekend which had the dark lord himself (Richard Dawkins) as guest speaker.
    Here are some articles about it.

    http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac;jsessionid=B4BDB461970FF57FCCEADA40F469E54F?sy=afr&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=1month&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=brs&cls=114&clsPage=1&docID=AGE100316P79KT4HGNU0

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/dawkins-preaches-to-the-deluded-against-the-divine/story-e6frg6zo-1225841086925

    Also, still no word from the ABC.

    Cheers,
    Ian.

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