The book is “If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists?”, by theologian R.C. Sproul. R.C. Sproul is one of my favorite theologians. The book in question has a very, very special place in my heart, because I think that it is one of the major reasons why I was able to resist pernicious ideas like religious pluralism and postmodernism for so long. Once you put on the glasses of Romans 1 and see for the first time what man is really doing with respect to God, you can never see things the same again. I’ll say more about this at the end, but let’s see what Brian wrote first.
So often, you hear atheists complaining about religion is nothing but wish-fulfillment or some sort of crutch for people who are frightened by a variety of things. They think that God is invented to solve several problems. 1) how does the world work?, 2) is there meaning to suffering and evil?, 3) why should I be moral?, and 4) what will happen to me and my loved ones when I die?. On the atheistic view, God is just a crutch that people cling to out of weakness and ignorance. But is this really the case?
Sproul starts the book by investigating three atheists who sought to explain religious belief as a result of psychological factors.
Before tackling the psychology of atheism, Sproul spends a chapter on the psychology of theism, from the perspective of Freud’s question “If there is no God, why is there religion?”11 What follows is an overview of various psychological explanations of theistic belief: Feuerbach’s “religion is a dream of the human mind.”12 Marx’s belief that religion is “due to the devious imagination of particular segment of mankind.”13 And Nietzche’s idea that “religion endures because weak men need it.”14 The author properly reiterates: “We must be careful to note that the above arguments can never be used as proof for the nonexistence of God. They can be useful for atheists who hear theists state that the only possible explanation for religion is the existence of God.”15 That being said, Sproul also reveals what these arguments presume:
Their arguments already presupposed the nonexistence of God. They were not dealing with the question, Is there a God? They were dealing with the question, Since there is no God, why is there religion?16
Sproul points out the weaknesses of each of these approaches and says “there are just as many arguments showing that unbelief has its roots in the psychological needs of man.”
Wow, could that really be true? What are the real reasons why people reject God? Does the Bible have anything to say about what those reasons are?
Brian cites Sproul’s contention:
The New Testament maintains that unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes as by moral and psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural hostility to the being of God.
[…]Man’s desire is not that the omnipotent, personal Judeo-Christian God exist, but that He not exist.
Sproul explains why atheists cannot allow themselves to live according to the evidence that is presented to them:
The cumulative effect of this knowledge that is clearly seen is to leave men ‘without excuse.’ Herein lies the basis of the universal guilt of man. No one can claim ignorance of the knowledge of God. No one can cite insufficient evidence for not believing in God. Though people are not persuaded by the evidence, this does not indicate an insufficiency in the evidence, but rather an insufficiency in man.
[…]The basic stages of man’s reaction to God can be formulated by means of the categories of trauma, repression, and substitution.
[…]If God exists, man cannot be a law unto himself. If God exists, man’s will-to-power is destined to run head-on into the will of God.
And this is the force that is animating atheists today. They don’t want to be accountable to God in a relationship, no matter what the evidence is. They have to deny it, so that they can be free to get the benefits of a universe designed for them, without having to give any recognition or acknowledgement back. If they have to lie to themselves to deny the evidence, they will do it. Anything to insulate themselves from the Creator and Designer who reveals himself in Jesus Christ.
The rest of the book review, and the book, deals with explaining in detail how atheists respond to an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator/Designer. I encourage you to click through and read the whole book review. You can read the review, and the book, and then investigate for yourself whether atheists really are like that.
My survey of atheists
By the way, did you all see my survey of atheists that I did a while back? It’s relevant because one of the questions I asked to my volunteers was “How you begin to follow Christ if it suddenly became clear to you that Christianity was objectively true?”. I got some very strange responses that dovetail nicely with Sproul’s book.
I would not follow. My own goals are all that I have, and all that I would continue to have in that unlikely situation. I would not yield my autonomy to anyone no matter what their authority to command me.
I would not follow, because God doesn’t want humans to act any particular way, and he doesn’t care what we do.
I would not follow. Head is spinning. Would go to physician to find out if hallucinating.
I hope I would be courageous enough to dedicate my life to rebellion against God.
I would not have to change anything unless forced to and all that would change is my actions not my values. I would certainly balk at someone trying to force me to change my behavior as would you if you were at the mercy of a moral objectivist who felt that all moral goodness is codified in the Koran.
He would have to convince me that what he wants for me is what I want for me.
Well Spent Journey did a similar survey of atheists, inspired by mine, and got this result on the relevant question:
12. How would you begin to follow Jesus if it became clear to you that Christianity was true?
– Would follow (5) – Wouldn’t follow (6) – Might follow the teachings of Jesus, but that isn’t Christianity (2) – It would depend on how this truth was revealed (3) – Christianity can’t be true (3)
– No answer given (4)
…What would be the hardest adjustment you would have to make to live a faithful, public Christian life?
– Adjusting wouldn’t be that difficult; would eagerly welcome knowing that Christianity was true (2)
– Praying, since it seems weird, creepy, and strange
– Trying to figure out how the Bible became so corrupted – Trying to convince myself that the God of the Bible is deserving of worship (2)
– Don’t think it would be possible to adjust – No clear response, or not applicable (16)
Yes, they really think like that! Just ask an atheist questions and you’ll see how “objective” they really are. Atheism is entirely psychological. It’s adopted in order to feel sufficient and to operate with autonomy, with the goal of self-centered pleasure-seeking above all. Evidence has nothing to do with it.
A literal reading of scripture and faith in an interventionist God strengthen church attendance. According to a new academic study of what drives a mainline Protestant church to die out or succeed, preaching these two theological precepts makes all the difference.
The forthcoming article, entitled “Theology Matters,” confirms a truth universally acknowledged, or reasonably intuited anyway. The Christ-optional, Gospel-as-metaphor, liberal-progressive mainline Protestantism borne of our secular age keeps so loose a lock on wandering souls that they wander away—choosing boozy brunch, perhaps, over pew-sitting.
The authors, Drs. David Haskell, Kevin Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne, used five years’ data gathered from 2,255 attendees of Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Canada parishes across the province of Ontario. (The United Church of Canada boasts an ongoing, unsurprising self-parody in an atheist minister no one seems to have ginned up the nerve to defrock.)
Approximately half of the authors’ subjects belong to growing parishes within these three mainline denominations, the other half to shrinking ones. Their most striking survey result finds churchgoers at shrinking parishes more doctrinally committed than their ministers.
That’s true about the atheist woman who is leading one of the denominations into decline:
An ordained minister with the United Church of Canada is resisting efforts to oust her from the pulpit because she is an atheist.
“I don’t believe in … the god called God,” Gretta Vosper told the Globe and Mail. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”
She said that she believes the Bible is “mythology,” and denies that Jesus is the Son of God.
The United Church of Canada has majored in progressive politics . Progressive politics is more important to them than apologetics and theology. From what I’ve read, their ministers are more likely to affirm the writings of progressive atheists like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg as “infallible” than the Christian Scriptures. We have similar problems in the USA with ELCA, PCUSA, ECUSA, and other far left denominations.
Here’s a quote from the study that breaks down the theology by change in church attendance:
When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb” 93% of growing church pastors agreed, 83% of growing church attendees agreed, 67% of declining church attendees agreed, and just 56% of declining church pastors agreed.
When asked if “God performs miracles in answer to prayer” 100% of the growing church pastors agreed, 90% of the growing church attendees agreed, 80% of the declining church attendees agreed, and just 44% of the declining church pastors agreed.
I think the problem is that when a minister quotes the Bible and espouses traditional theology, people can sense that this teaching is from God, because it is at odds with their selfish desires. They understand the authenticity of it, because it calls them higher. Progressives like Greta Vosper tell people that their current sinfulness is just fine, since the goal of spirituality is to look inside yourself for guidance so that you feel good. But does sinfulness really deliver results over the long term? We were designed by God for righteousness, not selfishness. I am pretty sure that Jesus knows a little more about human nature than Greta Vosper does.
1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.
2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king,
3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”
4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.
6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided:
9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”
10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.
11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”
12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.
13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.
14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.
15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.
16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven
20 and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
24Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”
25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about,
28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.
30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
People can see right through progressive “spirituality”. They see that this is man-made humanism designed to make people feel better. They know that this is just one person’s opinion, and not from God. The blind leading the blind, as the Bible says. Greta Vosper isn’t deriving her worldview from a truth-centered investigation of science, history or logic. It’s feelings all the way down, and that’s not useful to people who are looking for objective truth and purpose.
I’ve listened to this debate three times because I liked it so much. I even ordered Chris’ book for my best friend Dina. She has listened to the debate, and is currently split between the two debaters. I am in firm agreement with the pastor Chris, although Remy has some useful things to say that I agree with.
Here’s a link to the debate page on Moody Bible Institute’s “Up For Debate” program with Julie Roys.
Should Christians Forgive No Matter What?
Should Christians forgive someone even if he’s not sorry? Or does true forgiveness require repentance and a desire to reconcile? This Saturday, on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will explore this issue with Chris Brauns, a pastor who believes forgiveness requires repentance, and Remy Diederich who believes it does not.
Although I disagree with Remy, I only disagree with him about whether the guilty person must admit guilt and feel remorse and make restitution (depending on the severity of the offense). I agree with him on other things like no revenge, attitude of love, expressing willingness to forgive and be reconciled, etc. I also disagree with Remy on “forgiving God”, which I think is just crazy, because when God is engineering a person’s salvation, he never fails. I think that God is the Great General, and his strategies never fail to achieve the outcomes he desires (while still respecting free will). Whatever suffering or inadequacy or longing that you experience as a Christian is not some sort of mistake, horrible as it may be for you at the time. God is not your cosmic butler, although a lot of people these days seem to think that he is, and then they get disappointed.
Anyway, please listen to that debate and comment on it about who you think is right. I think my view (and Chris’ view) is in the minority in the church, because the church is so utterly dominated by feelings and radical feminism. I think my view (and Chris’ view) is the masculine view – the view that upholds moral standards, sets moral boundaries and defends the rightness of making moral judgments.
Below, I have pasted in some of my other thoughts on forgiveness from a previous post.
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector,standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So again, no forgiveness without repentance.
Forgiveness is what happens when someone who is sinned against treats the sinner as if he had never sinned. It is not on the balance sheet. It is not brought to mind. It is not held against them in the future. The forgiver trusts the sinner again as if the previous sin had never happened.
In divine (vertical) forgiveness, there is no forgiveness without repentance. There are Bible verses above to show that.
My argument is twofold. First, there is a clear teaching of Jesus explaining the sequence of sin and forgiveness. Repentance precedes forgiveness, between humans (Luke 17:3). The verses cited by the forgive without repentance crowd don’t show the mechanics of how to forgive, they are making the point that if you want God to forgive you, you should forgive others. The parable in Luke 18:9-14 affirms this again – repentance always precedes forgiveness.
Second, we have an obligation to imitate God, and that means imitating the way he forgives those who sin against him. When I raise that with the unconditional forgiveness crowd, they want to insist that there is a difference, that the word “forgive” means different things. I’m not convinced.
Finally, I do think that forgiving someone is obligatory if they sincerely repent, and even if they screw up again and again. So long as the repentance is sincere, (like if there is restitution and a genuine effort to show an understanding how the sin affected the wronged party in writing), then forgiveness should be automatic. Depending on how bad the sin is, there maybe be more to do than just say “I’m sorry”. If the repentance is genuine, then I think the person who is sinned against must forgive, if they expect to be forgiven by God for the things they repent of.
Alan E. Kurschner adds one final point about the unconditional forgiveness view. He argues that there is serious textual doubt about the originality of Luke 23:34a, a text used by the pro-unconditional-forgiveness crowd. He has a journal article coming out on it, but a synopsis of his argument is here.
He also wrote this in a comment on this blog:
Second, on Matt 6:15, this is what I have to say. Notice the then-clause: “neither will your Father forgive your sins.” This would require universalism on the Father’s part according to the unconditional interpretation given the first half: “But if you do not forgive others their sins.” Since everyone has wronged the Father is the Father required to forgive everyone even if they are not seeking forgiveness?
So I think the case for the forgiveness being conditional on repentance is pretty strong, especially when serious harm has been caused.
Mark Driscoll has a series he does called “Best Sermon Ever”, where he invites other pastors to give their sermons. But today’s sermon really is the Best Sermon Ever, but it’s given by Mark Driscoll (sent to me by super-Wife McKenzie). I asked McKenzie to send me the best sermon she had ever heard, and now it’s the best sermon that I have ever heard.
As always, when dealing with Mark Driscoll, we note that he does not hold women accountable to the Bible on moral issues, but instead deflects responsibility for the bad decisions of women to men, often to non-Christian men who don’t even have objective morality . Nevertheless, I agree with him 99.9% of the time, and I think you will agree when you listen to the sermon that this man has a gift for preaching. I could not find a single thing wrong with this sermon, I give it a score of 12 billion out of 10.
This is the link to his web site that has the sermon, the audio and the full transcript. The title of the sermon is “The Father of a Murdered Son”.
This is a Youtube video that someone uploaded: (audio only)
Here is the beginning of the sermon:
Luke 20:9–18, “The Father of a Murdered Son.”
“And he,” that is Jesus, “began to tell the people this parable,” which is a small story that tells a big truth. “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
“But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
Jesus here is on his way to Jerusalem. He is days from his crucifixion. He is going to be murdered in a brutal and bloody way. And as he’s approaching the cross and the crowds have gathered around him, he wants us to see human history and our lives individually from the perspective of God.
And this is very important because we live in a day where this is not encouraged. This is actually discouraged. We live in a day in which we want to see our lives and history from our perspective according to our own sinful desires and our own selfish pursuits, which can then even lead us to the point of questioning, is there a God? Or if there is a God, questioning the goodness of God. Is there a God? Does he care? Is he involved? Does he love us? And then we put ourselves in the position of judging God.
And then some of us can even go to the Scriptures and say, “I don’t think God should ever get angry. He should never judge anyone. That whole issue of hell seems highly unnecessarily and over-reactionary. Perhaps, that was primitive teaching from a former day, thankfully we’ve evolved beyond that.” And it’s because we are the guilty looking at the judge and wanting to replace our position with his that we might judge him.
WHO DOES EACH CHARACTER IN THE PARABLE REPRESENT?
Jesus here wants for us to have an opportunity, in as much as we’re able, with a three-pound, fallen brain and sinful proclivity and self-interest to put a hat on and to look at things, not from our perspective, but from God’s perspective, to see our lives as God sees them, to see human history as God sees it. Now we’re not God, so we have a limited capacity to do this. But in telling this parable, Jesus is trying to open our understanding to what it is like for God to deal with you and me and us. And he does so in the form of a parable.
For us to extract significant meaning from the parable, it requires that we go through, look at each of the characters and ask, to whom does that refer?
I can’t really excerpt this sermon. You simply must listen to all of it.
If you are anything like me, this sermon is going to hold you accountable about whether you are doing everything you can to tell non-Christians about Jesus, and why his actions are the most important events ever to occur in history. I listened to it and I immediately sat down and wrote an 1100 word essay to very special woman about my life, and how I would like to be more faithful as a Christian in service to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In particular, I thought of my co-workers who are Muslim, Hindu and Jewish, and how important it is for me to let them know that they can ask me about the story of Jesus and that I will tell them the gospel. It made me think about how much I would like my non-Christian co-workers to hear the gospel, and understand who Jesus claimed to be, and the significance of his actions.