Saturday, 13 May 2017

Quick Answers to Problems of Evil and Suffering

I'm responding to these assuming you're not familiar with some of the things I'm saying, so apologies if it seems patronising. I'm also going to try and be brief, so there might be some skimmed details.

If God is good, why is there Hell? Infinite punishment for a finite crime.

I imagine you have a particular something in mind when you say 'Hell'. The movies tend to use the medieval imagery of fire and brimstone with goat legged devils with pitchforks tormenting sinners day and night.
That's just not what the Bible teaches.
I personally am an annihilationist, which means I believe that when the time comes, God will bring the saved to the new Heaven and Earth, and the unsaved will cease to exist - much like how atheists think they will end up anyway.
But I think the most common belief among Christians is that Hell is a prison locked from the inside. God gives everyone a choice of whether or not to be with him and follow him. It's not a case of follow and love me or be punished, it's follow me or do what you want without me.
But the outcome of that is by your own free choice, you will have to live somewhere that God has closed off to himself. And that place will naturally be really awful, seeing as God is the source of goodness. He doesn't want you to go there, but if you choose to go there, he won't stop you.

If God is good, why does he let people die and suffer? And all these disasters happen?


Sunday, 26 February 2017

How Do We Know The Trinity Is True?

There isn't a passage in the Bible that specifically says anything like "Oh by the way, The Father, The Son a.k.a. The Word a.k.a. Jesus, and The Holy Spirit are three persons who make one being - Galapagos 13:69". In fact the word 'trinity' doesn't appear anywhere. But that doesn't mean that this doctrine isn't a clear truth of Christianity. The word 'trinity' perhaps came later to be a simple description of a recurring theme throughout both the Old and New Testament.
But still there are a large number of Christians who think that God and Jesus were separate beings, and have no idea what the Holy Spirit is about.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. -- 2 Corinthians 13:14
Here we'll take a look at some of the several reasons that the Trinity is pretty much indisputable.

Firstly, without even looking at specific Scripture, let's take a moment to think about the atonement from the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Basically, any human that sins must die. Sin can not enter heaven, so a human carrying it will not be able to go to heaven. That means everyone. Every human has a debt to pay. They owe a life for their sins. Potentially, one sinless human could pay the debt for them. If the sins of one human create a debt of one life, then the life of a sinless person could balance it out. It would have to be a sinless person, because if the second person had their own sins, they would have their own debt.
So given one sinful human, and one sinless one, either one could die for to pay the debt. One for one.
But if we have two sinful humans, and one sinless one, and the sinless one offers his life to save another, he can only pay for one. So we're still left with one debt not paid off.
So if Jesus was just a man who lived a perfect life, surely he could only give his life to save one other person. Maybe his favourite disciple.
But if Jesus was God, that means he has an infinite, eternal life, which is worth a whole lot more than one human life. His death, which cuts off eternity, is an easy trade off for however many humans (with an average of around a 70 year life span) have ever lived, with change to spare.
So Jesus in his infinite nature as God, having lived a sinless life is the only one who can afford to pay the debt of humanity.
Of course, everyone still dies, so it might seem confusing that Jesus died to save us all from dying, when we all still die. What Jesus' death saves us from is sometimes referred to as 'the second death'. So when our bodies die, our spirit can live on, until it is given a new body for the New Heaven in the future. But without Jesus' sacrifice, we would have no right to be given that new body and be brought back from death. The second death as described in Revelation is the destruction of the souls who are still carrying their own sin.

I simply can not see how Jesus being only a man and not the incarnation of God could work in this scenario.

No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever, that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay. -- Psalm 49:7-9
One more point that shows that the Trinity is a necessary aspect of God without diving into Scripture. God is defined as the embodiment of love. (1 John 4:8 -- Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.) God is also described as having aseity, which means he exists fully without needing anything. (Acts 17:25 -- And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.) But how could God be capable of loving, sharing love, and receiving love if he was alone? He would need someone else. But seeing as God does not need anyone else, and can embody love whether or not humans exist, it must be that the shared love is contained within himself, in his multiple persons. If he was alone, he would not be sufficient to embody love, but as three in one, he can be just that. A God who is not self sufficient, and needs something or someone else, is not the God Christianity describes. The Trinitarian God is sufficient, but a unitarian God is not.

But let's go on and look at the Scriptural support for the Trinity.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. -- Matthew 28:19 

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Self-Contradicting Worldview of Atheism


That title alone is bound to set off some triggers. Which is a shame, because it would be nice to get into the meat of this without having to first lay down some grounding to explain where we're coming from.

That well-rehearsed scripted cry rings in my ears as I write, "Atheism isn't a worldview! It's just an answer to the God claim!"

I take this to mean that the atheist saying it is really an agnostic non-theist. As such, they are sat on the fence with an "I don't know if God exists or not and am withholding judgement until more evidence comes in".
An atheist on the proper definition either believes, or feels certain that the claim "God does not exist" is true.

Following from the belief in that claim is an obvious basis for a worldview. An atheist who believes there is no such thing as God, must necessarily believe that everything in existence operates without need for one. While a theist believes God created, moulded, designed, sustains, and has plans for the universe and everything in it, an atheist requires other explanations. Hence, worldview.

Going back to the agnostic non-theist for a moment. It would be smart for them to consider the logical implications of an atheistic worldview. Rather than solely look at the claim "God exists", they should study and apply similar scepticism to the alternative claim "God does not exist". Perhaps they'd then see a clearer picture of which worldview makes more sense.

So. The following will be going through various claims made by atheists about their worldview. These are common claims made by many. We will see that a number of them are incompatible. Fortunately not every atheist holds to all of the claims, and so not every atheist is living with incompatible beliefs, but for those who do spout these contradictory ideas, they should really re-examine their worldview, and at the very least, choose between the contradictions.
If you ever find that you believe two statements that are in contradiction with one another, you have no choice but to drop one.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Which Bible Is The Right Translation?

Like most people in my non-denominational group of Christians that I know, my go to English translation for the Bible is the NIV, the New International Version. It's easy to read and does a decent job of staying true to the text. And like most people in my non-denominational group of Christians that I know, as well as a wider spread of other Christians of various denominations that I do and don't know, none of us ever use The Message. 

But at other times, I prefer some of the translations in the ESV, the English Standard Version. There have been a fair few times where I think this one has nailed a verse, where the NIV doesn't quite hit the mark.
But then, other people have a fondness for the KJV, the King James Version. I personally like the old timey language with the thee's and thou's and such, but there are some things in this translation that put me off using it generally.
Sometimes specific denominations have their own preferred translation. Jehovah's Witnesses tend to stick to the NWT, New World Translation. Or it might be that a certain church pastor has their own favourite so that's what they keep in their pews.

But when you have all these different versions floating around, and various people saying they like this one, or that one, to an outsider it can look like the Bible is in a mess. How can we read and trust the Bible, if we don't know which one is the right one? Of all these versions surely we need to figure out which one is the one to stick to and then ignore the rest?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Why does God allow evil?

Here's a thing. The Problem of Evil is a terrible terrible argument philosophically. It's terrible. Rubbish. Just awful. It's an emotional knee jerk reaction to stuff people don't like. It hasn't got any actual weight as an intellectual problem. 

But people are hung up on it. And we shouldn't be surprised about that. People in general do favour their emotions over rationality.

It's human nature to put our feelings first, even when reason points in a different direction. When you do philosophy, you have to get in the practice of switching off emotion for a while, otherwise you can cloud your judgement. It's not always easy, and in tricky subjects like the worldwide suffering of humanity, it can seem cold and heartless. But them's the breaks.

Quite often, the Problem of Evil won't even be presented as any kind of logical philosophical argument or syllogism. It'll usually just be the question "Why does God let bad things happen?"
You don't have to have studied philosophy for long to know that a question is not the same as an argument!
A question is looking for an answer. You don't know how to explain something, so you ask someone else if they can. An argument is an attempt to make an explanation that you already have stick.
So given that there's this big question casting a large dark shadow of doubt over people, we should wonder if there's an answer.

And this is a thing that plagued me before I began my journey into Christianity. There were so many questions like this that were in common knowledge, yet nobody seemed to even have the beginning of an answer. We'd say "If God exists, why do bad things happen to good people?" and then shrug our shoulders and move on thinking "I guess we'll never know".
There was a time where I thought it was perfectly reasonable when I heard people saying stuff like "I think it's likely that there was a man in history called Jesus who was a good teacher, but I don't know for sure."
But then I discovered these things called 'reading' and 'research' and 'critical thinking'. It was amazing the results that I got. Answers are out there. Just go have a look.
So, after that lengthy sidetrack, let's get on with the question of the day. "If God exists, why does he let bad things happen to good people?"

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Atheism Is Not The Null Hypothesis

I briefly covered my dismay at the phrase 'atheism is the null hypothesis' before, but I've decided to give it a brief revisit.

The null hypothesis is a term used in science to help weed out parts of theories that can be shaved by Ockam's Razor. When performing a scientific test, the null hypothesis refers to a specific variable that you can assume is not necessary to the success of the test. If it was removed, the test would work as well as it does when it is present. So when it comes to describing the test and its method, you needn't even mention the variable, because it has no effect whatsoever.

This is how atheists feel about the universe and God. They see atheism as the null hypothesis, with God as the useless variable, because they see that the universe runs just fine without him.

But isn't that quite clearly concluding atheism based on the presupposition of atheism? Yes. Yes it is.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Abortion Again?

Last time I mentioned abortion, I said it wasn't something I put too much effort into studying. But it seems to be a big deal and I have been thinking about it more and more.

I still don't see why I need to.
Abortion is the act of killing unborn babies. Does it need to get more complicated than that?

Apparently. The pro-choice apologetics I've heard though are really really terrible.
Maybe I'm coming in from a hard angle, I mean, I am looking to be convinced that murdering babies is OK. That's a tough sell, but for some reason a lot of people feel that way.
I even offer an alternative: show me why a foetus is somehow not human and therefore all right to dispose of.

The short of it: my position is that abortion is the murder of unborn babies. You either have to convince me that it's not murder, or it's not a baby.
So far, I'm unmoved. And if it's wrong to hold the view that murdering babies is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

I don't want to suggest that all women who have had abortions are evil. I imagine many have felt that it was the right thing to do in a certain situation. Of course there are also the numerous medical reasons for abortions to be necessary. The particular attitude I'm very much opposed to is "A baby/pregnancy would be an inconvenience to me, so I'll just abort it".
I'm aware pregnancy is no walk in the park, and childbirth even less so, but once the baby is born, if it's still unwanted, there are plenty of couples who aren't able to conceive their own who would love to adopt.

So what have I been offered in defence of baby killing?