Question for Humanists

I was just thinking about this concept, and it struck me as something that theists get asked all of the time, but it’s never really asked of non-theists.

My question is this: “Why is there evil in the world?”

The reason I ask is because humanism is predicated on the belief that man is basically good. But if man is good and there is no God, then why is there evil? And if man is good and all selections we make are not determined by us (determinism), then how could we determine to do evil if we’re basically good? It seems too simple, but I want to know how such a view is reconciled. It’s a sincere asking, so any humanist reading this blog, please feel free to share your response. Thanks.

Theism or Atheism – Which is More Logical?

In having several different discussions, something that just became evident to me is how much the debates between theists and atheists rely on logic. Truthfully, I hadn’t heard terms like special pleading, begging the question or non sequitur until I jumped into the fray. And yet they are constantly being tossed around in these arguments, knocking down arguments and providing objections and rebuttals.

That got me thinking a bit. If logic and philosophical arguments are such a big piece of the issue, then what logical arguments are being discussed. In all of my time here on WordPress, I’ve seen many positive arguments for theism, like the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, the argument for soul, the argument from desire, the argument for the veracity of the resurrection of Christ. I’ve made many of these arguments myself on this blog.

But for atheism, the positive arguments are scarce to non-existent. Shouldn’t a worldview that predicates itself on being “critical thinkers” and using “logic and reason” to show people the light of the day have more positive arguments on its side? I mean, realistically the only positive argument I can think of for atheism is the problem of evil, and that’s not even really a positive argument for atheism so much as a negative argument against theism.

So maybe someone can help me out here, but are there really any good positive arguments for atheism? My feeling is that if a worldview is true, there will be reasons to believe it is true. Just like if I believe that atheism is false, that doesn’t mean that theism is true. I need reasons to believe in favor of theism.

If there are no good positive arguments for atheism, then can atheists really contend that they come from the more logical position? Perhaps this is why atheism argues so hard for methodological naturalism, because that is really all it has to stand on if it can’t use philosophy or logic in favor of its position.

It’s just one more thing to make me (and hopefully any fence-sitters out there) convinced that theism has a much firmer foundation as a worldview, and I have solid justification in my belief in God. 🙂

Archaeologists Closer to Proving the Bible?

This is an interesting article. It’s by no means conclusive, but it’s a good read nonetheless. Check it out if you have five minutes.

Archaeologists Closer to Proving the Bible?

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

It’s interesting when you read some passages in the Bible and you can actually see just how right Jesus is. I mean, if there was any doubt that Jesus knew the hearts of men, He makes it pretty clear in some instances. I think I just read one.

In Matthew 17, shortly after the Transfiguration of Jesus (the subject of my 2nd run at the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation), a man brings his son who “has seizures,” or as referenced in the King James Version, is a “lunatic.” The man originally brought the boy to the disciples and asked them to cast the demon out of him. Yet the disciples, who had been given by Jesus the power to heal and exorcise demons (Mark 6:7), could not cast this demon out of the boy.

So as Jesus comes down from the mountain (one pastor I heard recently believes this to be Mt. Hermon), the man asks Jesus to heal him because the disciples couldn’t. Jesus answers. “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus then casts the demon out of the boy.

The disciples, no doubt, were astonished. They had cast out demons of others before, yet were unable to. So of course they needed to know why they no longer had this power. Matthew 17:20 is Jesus’ reply: “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Clearly, the faith that the disciples had in Jesus had suffered from a lapse. Jesus even suggests that perhaps it had not only waned, but dissipated, as he called the disciples part of an “unbelieving and perverse generation.”

Now this seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? Don’t you think God could have seen that the disciples largely had the best of intentions and let it slide, giving them the power to cast out demons? But God knew the disciples’ hearts. He knew that they at this point didn’t even have the “faith of a mustard seed.” Jesus explains how much God can do with a little bit of unassailed faith. I think throughout history He’s proven faithful Himself on this account. Look at some of the pillars of faith, not only from Hebrews 11 but from some of the early church fathers, and even these same disciples who received the power of the Holy Spirit.

But we can even see that the disciples didn’t have the necessary faith. It’s evident in the very next passage! Matthew 17:22-23: “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.” Jesus predicted both His death and resurrection in the same sentence, and what is the disciples’ reaction? Were they excited about Him coming back to life and reigning once again? Nope, they were filled with grief because of His death! They didn’t understand the power of coming back to life. Why? Because they didn’t even have the faith of a mustard seed.

So why do we not believe that God can do great things with our belief? Even in this story, Mark 9 records that the father asks for Jesus to “help his unbelief.” As a result of his belief, Jesus casts the demon out of his son. So with our own belief, with the faith of a mustard seed, what could Jesus do for us, or through us? I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us (myself included) don’t even have the faith of a mustard seed right now. If we did, we would be moving mountains for God’s kingdom.

This is a personal challenge to me, and I’m extending it to you, the reader, as well. What can I do in examining my own life to determine how to get my heart to start acting in faith? What can I do to “help my unbelief?” I know the answer–I can’t do that myself–but I also know that God doesn’t call me to be inert. I need to move to where He is pushing me so that I can see His power and renew my faith. Hopefully, more of us can accept the call-to-action that our faith so desperately requires.

Perceptions of God: Does He Really Listen?

On Thursday night, my wife and I were watching the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In it, one of the characters, Dr. Kepner, had previously been a virgin for, say, 27 years or so. Last week in an adrenaline rush she gave up her virginity to her best friend Dr. Avery. This week, in a fit of panic as they both thought they were failing their boards, they slept together again. The thing that makes this all interesting to me is that after the first time Kepner tells Avery that she had kept her virginity because “she loved Jesus.” But she was afraid Jesus didn’t love her anymore.

Let’s stop there for a moment, because it’s an interesting perspective. As a Christian, this greatly confused me, until I thought about it from a secular perspective. Is the perception of God out there that He expects you to live a perfect life, and once you fail He’s done with you? It seems like it might be. Who knows, perhaps even some believers in Christ feel this way.

But I feel like this perception comes from a failure to read your Bible. The Bible is full of passages that attest to not only God’s enduring love but also His faithfulness. Consider this verse in Hebrews 13: “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.'” Or perhaps Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” It seems like that perception is actually a bit borne out of pride. Why would I say that? Well, if you are aware of these verses, the only explanation for feeling like God stops loving us is that we think we know better how God feels toward us than He does, like we have some special knowledge He doesn’t.

So I don’t think there is any reason, if you study God’s Word, to think that one act like losing your virginity is enough for God to say, “That’s it. No more love for that one.” But in this week’s “Grey’s” episode, Dr. Kepner goes even further after her second escapade. She admits to her test administrators that she thinks God doesn’t even hear her anymore. Now she’s committed the same sin twice, and this is enough to push God over the edge, apparently.

But this, to me, is again a mis-perception of God, and even a mis-perception of Christianity to some extent. And yet many people really feel this way and many more perceive it to actually be this way. If God has ever listened to us or spoken to us, then He is always doing those things. How do we know? Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Or Psalm 102:27: “But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Or James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God doesn’t change! So if we think God isn’t listening, what has changed? It’s us! Think about it. We’re the ones that are sinning, so we’re the ones that are changing our tune with how we relate to God. God’s not changing His responsiveness; we’re changing our willingness to listen.

I think it’s important when you feel like this to realize that God is not a God who likes to confuse, trick, scheme or plot revenge. He’s a God that continues to pursue you even when you turn aside or even turn your back. But He’s always willing to listen, and not just to the “saved” or the “elect.” He’ll listen to anybody, and He’ll speak to those that are genuinely willing to listen. We just need to make sure we’ve got the radio dial tuned to the right station, or that we’re not trying to use our cell phone in the wilderness. The reception’s much better when you’re headed where you need to go.

The Two Witnesses, Part Deux

A year and a half ago, I posted this blog post about the two witnesses of Revelation 11. I posited that potentially these two would be Elijah and Enoch, since these are the two men that have never tasted death (Hebrews 9:27). But I heard a talk recently that makes me think that a more popular view is correct. Let me explain.

At the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17), two men appear with Jesus. One is Elijah, whom is prophesied as a forerunner of Christ’s kingdom in Malachi. Jesus even references this question from Peter in confirming that Elijah would come back. I think it’s safe to say that Elijah would be one of these witnesses.

The other is Moses. He’s more of an interesting character, because he died before entering the Promised Land, but we don’t know where he is buried. Why? The Lord Himself buried Moses. In fact, Jude 9 tells us that Michael was sent to contend with Satan for the body of Moses. Why would He do this for a dead body? Perhaps because He had plans for that body, and didn’t want it desecrated.

But there’s one other thing that in my laziness I never read until it was brought up in a message I heard today. In Revelation 11, these two witnesses are given two distinct powers: 1) “They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying,” and 2) “They have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” (Revelation 11:6).

For those of you who know your Old Testament history, who was given the power to shut the heavens and keep it from raining in Israel. Answer: Elijah. Who was given the power to turn the waters into blood and cast plagues? Answer: Moses. Seems rather convenient that these guys have the same power, no?

So I think it’s safe to say I’ve amended my position a bit, and believe that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are Elijah and Moses. It doesn’t mean this is for certain the way it’s going to happen, but the pieces of the puzzle fit rather nicely together if this is how it were to happen. Man, God is awesome. We ought to remind ourselves of that more often than we do.

How To Refute Christianity

I liked this blog post, so thought I would share the link for you all. Enjoy!

How To Refute Christianity

Brief Venture #2: Interesting 2012 Baseball Stats

As with most guys, I enjoy sports. A lot. In fact, I follow just about every major sport that’s out there pretty avidly, with the exception of hockey. But I also enjoy stats. I’m a statistician by trade, so I love looking at the numbers and comparing things, so I was looking at some Major League Baseball stats for the 2012 season thus far, and there are some interesting ones:

1) If the season were to end right now, there would be two Triple Crown winners (Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton). Considering the last Triple Crown winner was in 1967, that would be a pretty incredible feat if they could keep it up.

2) Albert Pujols, who signed a $240 million contract this year, has the 3rd most at-bats in the majors without a home-run this year. Ahead of him are those huge power-hitters Michael Bourn (Atlanta) and David Murphy (New York Mets). Angels fans crying much?

3) Mark Reynolds has had 63 at-bats this year for Baltimore. 63% of those at-bats have ended without the ball in play, as he has 30 strikeouts and 10 walks. In fact, he has over three times as many strikeouts as hits this year, which accounts for his .143 average. I think he may end the year with 63 at-bats at this rate.

4) Emilio Bonifacio (Miami) leads the league in his own quirky stat. Bonifacio has 21 hits this season (.244 average), but he leads the league in most hits without an extra-base hit. All 21 hits have been singles. Emmanuel Burriss (SF Giants) is 2nd on this list, with 13 hits and no extra-basers, but in his defense, he does have 36 fewer at-bats than does Bonifacio.

5) Of the top 10 pitchers in number of innings pitched, only one has an ERA higher than 4.00. Unfortunately for me as a Yankees fan, that pitcher is C.C. Sabathia. But the tables turn, because Sabathia has yet to lose a game, which only one guy with more innings pitched can also say. That man, Jared Weaver, has gotten out one more batter than Sabathia through 5 games.

6) Clay Buchholz has 3 wins this season, tying him for 9th with a host of other pitchers in the MLB this season. What those other pitchers don’t have, though, is Buchholz’s 8.69 ERA. In fact, only one other pitcher of the top 36 pitchers in wins this year has an ERA over 5.00. That man, Ivan Nova (Yankees, 5.18 ERA), hasn’t lost in 15 regular-season decisions, which hasn’t happened in over 50 years.

7) Ervin Santana is the only pitcher to have lost 5 games in April. Correlated with that is another “only” distinction: he’s the only pitcher to have given up 10 homeruns already.

Anyway, those are just a few of the interesting stats that I stumbled across when looking at it this month, so I hope you enjoyed perusing them briefly too. I’ll be curious to see if any of these trends continue. I wonder if I could make $240 million without hitting a homer. Nah, probably not. 🙂

A Brief Venture Into Politics: Illegal Immigration

This post is a bit different from what I usually post here, as I usually deal with apologetics issues or sort of a “Christian living” approach. But something that happened this week made me want to post a few thoughts on the subject of illegal immigration in the United States.

My wife’s cousin posted a status on his Facebook account that said this: “How does being an illegal immigrant make you inherently more dangerous to society?” What followed initially were a couple of responses like this one: “I think illegal is the operative word in that sentance.(sic)”

WIFE and I had a discussion as she responded with her own opinions and went back-and-forth in a debate with one of the posters. But at the heart of the issue is not the illegality of the immigration, but of the inherent danger it supposedly triggers.

Now we obviously don’t live in a vacuum. Some illegal immigrants do commit serious crimes. But so do legal citizens! According to an article in Time magazine from 2008, illegal immigrants were responsible for 21% of crime in the U.S. in 2005. That means 79% of crime was caused by U.S. citizens. So the statistics show that there isn’t actually more danger inherent to illegal immigrants.

This objection (paraphrased) was thrown out in response to the initial Facebook status: “If they’re willing to commit a crime to be here, they’re willing to commit other crimes once they’re here.” There are two very good refutations to such logic. One is given in the above Time article by Prof. Daniel Mears, a Florida St. criminology professor: “‘If someone is here illegally,’ Mears asks, ‘why would they call attention to themselves by committing a crime?'”

The second one is a very basic turn of the word “illegal.” It means, in its simplest form, “breaking the law.” However, someone going above the speed limit on the road is also breaking the law, or to even it out to the language used of immigrants, “committing a crime.” Does that mean we should imprison or deport everyone who is speeding, since those speeders (of which I am one, sadly) have shown a willingness to commit a crime? Under the same logic, speeders would be willing to commit other crimes if they’re willing to speed. So why do speeders get only a ticket but illegal immigrants get deported or jailed? The argument just doesn’t make logical sense.

In my opinion, there are two big issues with many who are vehemently opposed to illegal immigrants in the United States:

1) Most strong objectors don’t actually know any illegal immigrants
2) An already “too strong” sense of entitlement

Let me speak to these together, because they sort of go hand-in-hand. I know of (for a fact) at least one person who is here illegally. I consider this person a good friend. This person has been here over five years and is married to a U.S. citizen. This person is also one of the nicest and hardest-working people I know. This person is here to try to make a better life for themselves and their family. This person has never committed a crime, contributes to society, is a member of a church and tithes to that church, and pays taxes on their income.

Here’s the kicker: this person has spent the better part of the past two years trying to become a legal citizen. What’s stopping them from achieving this? Initially this person was swindled out of thousands of dollars by a crooked lawyer (who is an American citizen) that had no intention of helping them see their case through. After getting a new lawyer, this friend of mine has been waiting months to hear from the American consulate in their home country for when they might get a hearing on their case. This has since been postponed with new immigration laws pending here. So even if an illegal immigrant wants to try and right the ship, the odds are stacked against them.

In contrast, I know of an American woman who wants her teenage daughter that just had a baby to move in with her so she can be on welfare and not have to get a job. This is a citizen who would like to abuse the system in order to perpetuate a laziness that comes from a sense of entitlement. After all, the government makes these programs, so we might as well use them if we can, right?

The old adage “give them a hand up, not a hand out” seems fitting here. Many illegal immigrants simply want a hand up. Many American citizens simply want a hand out. And yet the perceptions about which is more dangerous seem drastically skewed when you’re not acutely aware of how each side actually behaves. Again, these are generalizations about each group of people, but since the scope of the initial topic was broad, the principles are applicable.

As with many situations on the political landscape, it helps to be informed. My initial thought is this: if you don’t know any illegal immigrants, don’t act like you know what they are or aren’t capable of and therefore have a right to judge.

As a Christian, part of my value system is that everyone is loved by God and equally important, so trying to diminish one’s opportunity at success because it may infringe on your potential is selfish. After all, Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged yourself.” Maybe if we spent more time trying to better ourselves instead of looking at the possible flaws of others, things would be far less dangerous. I’m pretty sure Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” not “love yourself and not your neighbor.” We’d be wise to heed such an ideology.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

P.S. For those of you wondering, I’m a registered Republican and may be in the minority here. But I’m a Christian first, and so will follow the words of Jesus before the words of my political party. 🙂

As a Christian, On Atheism

This post of mine isn’t actually going to be one I’ve written. It’s simply going to end with a link to someone else’s blog that I would encourage you all to read. So often we (and I am definitely included in this) get lost in the sniping and nit-picking of little details that we often miss the point of why we’re even having this discussion. I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure why atheists continue to come on WordPress and other forums and try to derail Christianity, Islam and any other religions they can get their hands on. I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak to that. But as a Christian, I can speak to the underlying cause behind even being here with this blog. Much of it is meant to be encouragement to other believers, but given that it has an apologetic tilt to it, the link below describes excellently the motivation for reaching out. I’m glad this gentleman posted it, and I hope I can remember to read it myself from time to time to remind myself that this is a war that is far greater than you or me. Maybe that will give me a little more compassion and a little less condescension for those who don’t agree with me. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have five minutes, check out the link below.

Re: Atheism