Showing posts with label Belief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Belief. Show all posts

Friday, February 09, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: What’s the Point?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Some people market Christianity like fire insurance, and others buy into it in fear of judgment. Then there are the folks like Joel Osteen who tell us being a believer will make us powerful and successful. Others who claim to represent Christ tell us that knowing Jesus will make us better human beings, improve our relationships or help us cope in bad times. Intellectual believers may say that in their search for truth, the Christian worldview best explains things about which they have always wondered.

Tom: Immanuel Can, there is a certain amount of rationality in most of these motives, but do they really get to the core of the Christian message?

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

When Normal Rules Don’t Apply

Was Adolf Hitler a Christian? And if so, how would we know?

One starting point would be to look at the things he said. Quotes like these employ language sufficiently “Christian” to inspire opportunistic atheists to say that he was, and even to assign Christians responsibility for the Holocaust:

“Overpowered by stormy enthusiasm, I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time.”

(from Mein Kampf)

“Let us fall down upon our knees and beg the Almighty to grant us the strength to prevail in the struggle for freedom and the future and the honor and the peace of our Volk, so help us God!”

(from a 1936 speech)

The horrified Christian responds, “No true Christian would ever order the deaths of millions!”

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Bolt-of-Lightning Belief

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say the internet has changed the way we find answers to our spiritual questions.

In times past, we might have picked up a book on a subject that interested us, plowed through it in due course, and agreed, disagreed or partially agreed with its author, which either satisfied our curiosity or provoked further investigation. But that’s a fairly laborious process, and not every Christian is up for it.

Typing a string of text into DuckDuckGo is not laborious at all. Anyone can do that.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Syllogism That Isn’t

“Love … believes all things.”

“Love your enemies.”

Do not believe them, though they speak friendly words to you.”

The three verses quoted above create a syllogism that isn’t.

First, we have Paul’s statement that love manifests in “believing all things”, whatever that might mean. Secondly, we have the Lord’s command to love one’s enemies, and it follows that if one is to love them, one must “believe all things” while doing so, because that is what Paul says love does. Finally, we have God’s instructions to Jeremiah, emotionally drained by the disloyalty and dishonesty of his own family members, whom he was surely obligated to love even under the Old Covenant … but in this case, Jeremiah’s love was not to manifest in belief. In fact, he was to exercise discernment and see through the lies of his siblings.

Something is wrong with the logic here, and we know it’s not that God has contradicted himself, since that never happens.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Going Crazy

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

What could inspire a perfectly pleasant secular gay man to trumpet the virtue of belief on YouTube? Well, in this case, it’s a new Pew Research study which reveals that a staggering 56.3% of white, liberal women age 18-29 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point.

Tom: The report also indicates conservatives of both sexes were only half as likely (16.3% vs. 33.6% and 27.3% vs. 56.3%) to be diagnosed with mental health issues as their liberal counterparts in the same age group, which understandably prompted Dave Rubin to start talking about the value of having a fixed set of beliefs.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Anonymous Asks (141)

“Should someone start attending a church if he or she doesn’t believe in God?”

I will add a couple more related questions: Should someone read the Bible if they don’t believe it? Should someone pray if they are not sure there is anyone out there to hear them?

And then I will answer them all the same way: Absolutely.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (12)

There is belief and then there is belief.

The oppressed people of Israel “believed” God had sent Moses and Aaron to deliver them from Egyptian slavery until Pharaoh suddenly doubled their workload and they began having doubts.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on them: it’s easy to believe something when it’s purely theoretical and doesn’t cost you anything. When belief persists despite resulting in humiliation, physical injury, hunger or economic loss, that’s when it starts to look a little more credible.

The book of Jonah tells us that the people of Nineveh “believed God”. There was nothing abstract or theoretical about it.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Anonymous Asks (117)

“Why should someone start believing in God?”

Not so long ago, I watched a highly educated agnostic on YouTube argue the case that pretty lies are sometimes beneficial. His point was basically that if what people believe causes them to do more good things than bad, then their beliefs are a net positive for the world despite the fact that they are out of touch with reality. He went on to say the Christian faith is one of these things, and that it is a net positive for societies and the individuals in them, even if it turns out to be a pretty lie. He says Western Civilization could use more people who believe pretty lies.

There might be something to that, but it’s not an argument a Christian is likely to make.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Diagnosing the Problem

“Behold, we are slaves this day ... behold, we are slaves.”

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

You can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is.

John 8:33 records a very strange statement, the second one I have quoted above. It appears to have been made not specifically by the Pharisees or Sadducees (though there may have been some of these present, of course), but more generally, by men who had just made a public confession of belief in Christ.

The statement was this: “We have never been enslaved to anyone.”

Friday, December 27, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: What’s the Point?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Anonymous Asks (57)

“Isn’t hell an unreasonable punishment for not believing in a specific set of truth claims?”

If not believing a specific set of truth claims is all there is to it, perhaps our questioner has a point. But is that really what the Bible teaches: that the ‘idealogically unsound’ will be banished from the presence of God for eternity?

Let’s consider ...

Monday, July 15, 2019

Anonymous Asks (49)

“I have a friend who says she is not religious. How do I respond?”

One thing I am slowly learning not to do is to tell other people exactly what they should say when witnessing for Christ. There are probably worse ways to share your beliefs than recycling someone else’s arguments in words you wouldn’t normally use, but I can’t think of too many at the moment. The best case a Christian can make is one he fully understands and believes with all his heart, and is able to express in the same sort of everyday language he uses to enthuse about a football team or a great song.

So I won’t tell you how to respond. The response needs to be all yours. What I might be able to do is to help you work through what your friend is really telling you when she says she is “not religious”, so you can decide how best to attempt to share Christ with her.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

There Is No ‘Plan B’

I have a friend who regularly sends me emails full of ‘Christian’ content, mostly the type of cookie-cutter platitudes and cheesy, sentimental anecdotes popular on social media. One or two have actually been pretty decent. I have no idea where he finds them all.

I assume he sends them my way because he knows I’m a Christian and expects that they’d be of interest to me in the same way that, say, NHL trade rumours interest a hockey fan, or an article on Jeff Tweedy may interest a fan of the band Wilco. It’s a nice gesture on his part.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Myth of Ideological Neutrality

Hmm ... which one is neutral?
I remember a time very, very long ago when this sort of thing may actually have gotten traction between my ears:

“As an open-minded nonreligious parent, it’s important to me that my daughter make up her own mind about what to believe — independent of me, independent of her grandparents, independent of her friends and neighbors. I want her to learn about various systems of belief, and about science and evidence, and then decide what seems right to her. If she changes her mind along the way, that’s fine! As long as it’s her own inquisitiveness and independent thought that prompts each change of heart.

You’re with me on this, right?”

No, but Wendy Thomas Russell is not alone in her desire to step back and avoid unduly influencing the way her child forms her beliefs about religion.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poetry and Practice

The apostle Paul is not primarily known as a poet.

Still, even translated into English, 1 Corinthians 13 is poetic enough to have been set to music or read at millions of weddings all over the world, religious and secular.

So much so that Mark Woods at Christian Today wishes we’d use something else instead. He says, “Paul’s sublime, God-breathed words in 1 Corinthians have been co-opted and corrupted by a wedding industry that celebrates romantic love, which is all about hormones, at the expense of Christian love, which is all about commitment”.

Not wrong.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: What’s the Point?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“My Church Believes …”

What does your church believe?

“Oh, you mean like a creed, or a statement of faith?”

Not really. I’m thinking more generally. A statement of faith usually attempts to be concise, whether it’s eleven paragraphs or seven pages. It may cover only basic theology or it may go into detail about home life and personal conduct. But it cannot possibly include everything the New Testament teaches. It cannot tell you all that a church really believes, though it may set off spiritual alarm bells by what it does or does not contain.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Judgment and Discernment

“This is a Christian country. I go to a Christian church. I believe in God and the Bible, so what right have you to judge me and tell me I’m not a Christian?” 
A question like this must be handled with care. It is certainly possible to conclude from a person’s life and actions that they are not living in a Christlike way; it may be discerned and pointed out that their beliefs about salvation and the Christian life are not in harmony with what the Bible teaches. But ultimately the question of whether a person is a ‘real’ Christian or not can be answered only by God, or in the case of a genuine child of God, by the individual believer.

Those who lack saving faith may not even be fully aware of it themselves.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Smart People Are Atheists

Are more intelligent people atheists? Bill Maher certainly thinks so:
“We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking ... I think religion is a neurological disorder ... I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality.”
So does Richard Dawkins, unsurprisingly:
“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” 
And of course the atheists network calls itself “the Brights”, presumably in contrast to those who are not.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

There Is No ‘Plan B’

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Know

My brother prevailed upon me to read this last night and, while heady and intellectual, I found it quite compelling. You can read the whole thing here, but I particularly like this bit:
“… the defining feature of Theism is the Theist’s experience of an infinite but intimate God; and this sets the Theist so far from abstract epistemic neutrality that she too has every justification for weighting most of the standard budget of problems for Theism found in typical philosophy of religion basically as interesting puzzles. The epistemic reasoner is certain that the world is real, on the basis of her experience; so her question about the sceptical argument is not “I wonder whether it is sound?” but “I wonder where exactly it goes wrong?”. The Theist is certain that God is real, on the basis of her experience; so her question about anti-Theistic arguments is not whether they prove that there is no God, but how exactly they fail to prove that.”
— Timothy Chappell, Theism in historical perspective
What I like is the way Chappell distinguishes 'theists’ from 'Theists’ in that the latter don't simply believe in the idea of God, but in an “infinite and intimate” God. Of course, from that certainty naturally follows. When you speak to me of God, I’m no longer talking about an intellectual idea, I'm talking about my closest friend.