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Category Archives: agnosticism

A HATED Message from the Bible!

I can understand people viscerally reacting to what the Bible says.  I can’t understand people who smile and merely pretend to believe it.

Seeking to win lost people to Christ is good for me.  It causes me to examine my own heart, to see if I really believe what I say I believe, to come to terms with the difference between my opinion and what the Bible really says.

Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  The Hebrew words rendered fool in the book of Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.  Morally deficient.  That’s a nice way of saying my works aren’t good enough.  My sacrifices aren’t good enough.  And that’s just flat-out offensive!

This kind of in-your-face honesty from the Bible is irritating to many.

We want a giant set of scales to weigh our good works from our bad works.  We think we’ll come out on top.  Bad thinking.

If the standard is other people, we might be ahead of some, but certainly behind others.  But what if the standard is a thoroughly holy, perfectly righteous Creator of the universe who is allergic to sin?

And that’s where the unique, but highly offensive message of the Cross comes in.  Christianity teaches that we needed someone who was perfect to take our place and bear our punishment so God could righteously forgive us.  It involved a cruel Roman cross which led to a horrific way to die (crucifixion) and a deep, deep truth that God’s Son became the sin sacrifice for us.  For me.  For you.

Dorothy Sayers put it this way:  “It is the dogma that is the drama–not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death–but the terrifying assertion that the same God Who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.”  Have you believed this message?

Discussion Question: Why are Christians surprised when those who do not yet believe get mad at the Christian message?

 

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“So, how much do YOU know, Mr. Christian?!”

The logical steps given in our blog “How to Turn an Atheist into An Agnostic” a couple of weeks ago might be used against the Christ-follower.  If so, how are we to respond?

Let’s review the series of three questions you can ask your atheist friend: (1) “Of all the knowledge we could ever attain as a human race, what percentage of that knowledge do you think we possess right now?”  [He might say, "Oh, 50%."]  (2) “Okay.  Of that 50% of all the knowledge we could ever learn, how much of that 50% do you personally possess?”   [He might say, "I'm fairly smart.  I did well on the SAT's.  I'd say, 10%.  Yep. That's right.  About 10%!"]  (3)  ‘Is it possible that of that 10% of that 50% knowledge that you have, is it possible that evidence for God outside of your present knowledge exists?”  [An honest atheist would have to say, "Well, yes, I guess it's possible."]

That series of questions could, of course, be posed by your formerly-atheist friend to you:  (1) “Mr. Christian, of all the knowledge we could ever attain as a human race, what percentage of that knowledge do you think we possess right now?”  [You might say 25%]; (2) “Okay, Mr. Christian, of that 25% of all the knowledge we could ever learn, how much of that 25% do you personally possess?”  [You might be more humble and say, "Oh, only about 1%!  I didn't do all that well on the SAT's"].  (3) “Oh, very humble, Mr. Christian!  Last question:  Is it possible that of that 1% of that 25% knowledge that you have, is it possible that evidence against God exists outside of your present knowledge?”  [An honest Christian, I think, would have to say, "Well, yes, I guess it's possible."]

What is the Christian to do here?  I would suggest that the questions have brought you and your inquisitor to exactly the right place!  NOW you can talk about the evidence you have found for Jesus Christ and biblical Christianity!

“One word of truth outweighs the whole world,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, once said.  Don’t be afraid to speak the truth which you have.

Discussion Question: Does admitting that we Christians might be wrong hurt or help our witness?  Why or why not?

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in agnosticism, atheism, chess, fool, Theological Essay

 

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What KIND of Agnostic Are You?

Your atheist friend has been miraculously moved from the category of ATHEIST to the category of AGNOSTIC by our series of three questions raised in our last blog “Turning an Atheist into an Agnostic.”  

We suggested there are two kinds of agnostic:  (1) The APATHETIC AGNOSTIC and (2) The EAGER AGNOSTIC.  The first says, “I don’t know if there is any evidence for God — and I don’t really give a happy rip.  Get out of my face or I will introduce you to my pitbull Darwin!”  What can be done by the Christian with this person?

Let me suggest three aspects of approaching your APATHETIC AGNOSTIC friend:

1.  First, never underestimate the power of praying for your friend.  Tell him so.  Remind him that this is a spiritual battle and only God can get him curious about the claims of Christianity.

2.  Second, live out your life before him.  Let him see that you struggle with life’s issues, but Christ gives you strength to admit your mistakes and trust in His power.

3.  Third, look for opportunities to challenge his worldview.  (Let the rain pour in, Francis Schaeffer used to say).

"Let the rain pour in!"

Ask probing questions, loan him good books (I’m still quite impressed with C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity), put him on the defensive so he will begin to question his unbelief.

The second kind of agnostic, The EAGER AGNOSTIC, says, “If there’s evidence for God, I’d love to see it!  What ‘cha got?”  One is then tempted to back up the dump truck of apologetic stuff and overwhelm your friend with Lee Stobel, C.S. Lewis, the early Clark Pinnock, Francis Schaeffer, J.P. Moreland, and Paul Copan.  But first find out where his questions lie.

We’ll deal with how the line of reasoning given in “Turning an Atheist into an Agnostic” can be used against the Christian in our next blog.

Discussion Question: Challenging an apathetic agnostic’s worldview will cause the Christian to read books he or she otherwise would not want to read.  What books are you presently reading which will help you challenge your AA’s worldview?

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in agnosticism, atheism, chess, fool, Theological Essay

 

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How to Turn An Atheist into An Agnostic

Got any atheist friends?  You might try the following to move them out of atheism into one of two kinds of agnosticism.  There

Richard Dawkins of "The God Delusion" fame

are three questions that you can ask your atheist friend which, if answered honestly, necessarily will transmogrify him or her into an agnostic.  Here they are:

1.  Ask your atheist friend:  “Of all the knowledge we could ever attain as a human race, what percentage of that knowledge do you think we possess right now?”  [He might say, "Oh, 50%."]

2.  Second question:  “Okay.  Of that 50% of all the knowledge we could ever learn, how much of that 50% do you personally possess?” [He might say, "I'm fairly smart.  I did well on the SAT's.  I'd say, 10%.  Yep. That's right.  About 10%!"]

"Son, I'm so PROUD of you!"

3.  “My, your mother must have been proud of you!  Third question:  ‘Is it possible that of that 10% of that 50% knowledge that you have, is it possible that evidence for God outside of your present knowledge exists?”  [An honest atheist would have to say, "Well, yes, I guess it's possible."]

“Congratulations,” you now say.  “You’ve moved from the category of ATHEIST (someone who declares there is no evidence of God) to the category of AGNOSTIC (someone who says, “I don’t know if there is any evidence of God.”).

You might then say, “Might I ask you one more question?  What kind of agnostic are you?”

He might respond, “What do you mean, ‘What KIND of agnostic am I?’  You mean democrat or republican?”

“No, no,” you say.  “I mean it appears there are two kinds of agnostic:  the APATHETIC AGNOSTIC and the EAGER AGNOSTIC.  Which one are you?  The APATHETIC AGNOSTIC says “There may be evidence for God — but I don’t care. Get out of my face or I will sick my dog on you!”  The EAGER AGNOSTIC says, “I don’t know of any evidence for God — but if you have any, will you share it with me?”  “Which kind are you, my friend?”

In our next blog we will talk about how to deal with both types of agnostics — and how this line of reasoning can be (profitably)

"Used against the CHRISTIAN?!"

used against the Christian!

Discussion Questions: How might this line of reasoning be used against the Christian?  And how can such an attack be of benefit to the Christian’s witness?

 
 

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“I’m corrupt and all my ways are VILE?!”

My atheist friend Bill read Psalm 53 — and, understandably, was TICKED!  Once he got past the opening line of “The FOOL says in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” he realized that the Psalmist describes him as CORRUPT marked by VILE ways and that he is in the category of NO ONE [who] DOES GOOD! 

When I was young, I was a Boy Scout (when I became older, I became a girl scout, but that’s a different story).  We Boy Scouts were taught that we were to do one good deed everyday.  The proverbial good deed for the Boy Scout is to help the little old lady across the street.  Sure enough, one day I was standing on a street corner in Burlington, NC where I grew up, in my Scout uniform with my new merit badges freshly sown on by my Mom, and there she was.   An old person.  An old lady.  Looking nervous about crossing a busy street.

I quickly walked up to her, took her carefully by the right elbow, and escorted her across that teeming thoroughfare.  [Actually, I hadn't seen even one car during the five minutes it took me to remember my Boy Scout motto].  When I released her elbow, she said, somewhat irritated, “Sonny.  I didn’t want to cross the street!  I was waiting there for the #13 bus!”

Of course, I immediately escorted her back to where she originally had been standing, and walked briskly away, beaming that I had taken care of two days’ worth of good deeds!

We don’t want to be told that “there is no one who does good, not even one.”  My friend Bill responded to Psalm 53 by writing  “The implication is that a) I am a fool, b) I am vile, c) I have never done anything good,  d) I am corrupt, e) I don’t know anything. f) I am an evildoer.” I responded to him and said, “Yes.  AND SO AM I! And that’s why we both need a Savior.”  [I am not saying, nor is the Psalmist, that unbelievers can't be good parents, good citizens, or good neighbors.  I think his point is that our sin has to be dealt with or we are in deep trouble].

Discussion Question: Can atheists be good parents, good neighbors, good citizens?  If so, then what does God mean when he says that “all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6)?

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in agnosticism, atheism, Theological Essay

 

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An Anatomy of a FOOL!

Smart people can be very dumb, at least according to God.  Do you know any smart fools?

Recently I’ve been sharing the gospel with some new friends.  Chess-playing friends.  Atheist friends.  [Hello to those friends if you are reading this post!].  My friend Bill (not his real name) and I have been verbally sparring over the issue of God’s existence.  His questions to me are quite good.  [My questions to him are also quite good, if I say so myself].

Some of his questions are:

  • With our limited senses, how dare we think we can explain the universe?
  • Are some religions better than others?
  • Why are humans so arrogant as to think they are of more value than other creatures?
  • How do Christians know they are not projecting their desired qualities on God, making Him in their image?

Some of my answers have included the following points:

  • Christians don’t really claim to explain the universe, but are trying to make sense of why there is something, rather than nothing.  We do not have to have exhaustive knowledge to have sufficient knowledge.
  • I would hope most of us would oppose religions that practice child sacrifice (teenager sacrifice I can understand!).
  • It’s hard to explain human arrogance about our creaturely superiority.  But, if we are made in God’s image, that’s certainly not a small thing.  Faced with rescuing your grandmother or your dog from being run down by a garbage truck in the street, I asked Bill, he seemed to hesitate.  Now, if we were talking about a mother-in-law (not my mother-in-law, mind you) . . .
  • One wag said that “God created man in his image — and modern man is returning the favor.”  Of course, we can project our ideas of what we would like God to be.   But if He has revealed His characteristics, and if we share some of those characteristics, then that is a different matter.

Two Psalms (Psalm 14 and 53) say rather indelicately, “The FOOL has said in his heart, ‘There is no god.’”  I asked my friend to read Psalm 53 — and he did.  I’ll let you know what he said in my next post.

Discussion Questions: Got any atheist friends?  What have you found helpful in talking to them about spiritual matters?

 
 

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