Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can Atheists Claim Any Kind of Morality?

I had a conversation with an atheist the other day. He basically believes that the Moral argument for the existence of God is false, because he believes that morals have evolved, in order for survival.
The problem with this is that in order to believe morals have evolved, one has to posit that morals are evolved, but morals have never changed.
When people burned witches at the stake, they were burning them not simply because they were witches, but because people believed that these “witches” could murder other people through spells and hexes. Likely frequently and highly mistaken, the townsfolk were simply bringing judgment on a murderer. The point is, people then were trying to rid the world of murder, because they knew it was wrong. Morals do not change.
Secondly, the peacock, for example is not a moral creature, yet still survives even though it is one of the world’s most fragile creatures. It does not take morals in order to survive.
On top of all of this, the 20th century was the deadliest century in the history of humanity! If we are supposed to be getting more civilized and our morals are evolving, then why were so many people murdered in the 20th century? If everyone has their own idea of what is good, then how can we be sure what good really is? Goodness transcends time and space. I elaborate on this below.

He believes that people try to make things right by not doing wrong again.

The purpose of religion is to eradicate guilt. Let me explain. Even the atheist does it. He tries to make things right by not making the same mistake again; the mistake of committing adultery, or the mistake of lying, or the mistake of stealing, for instance. The problem is, however, he will find that if he reflects on his life, he cannot carry this out. He knows what good is, but constantly fails.
All religions seek to eradicate guilt. Even Buddhism, if one can even call that a religion. Buddhism’s four noble truths starts with the Dukkha. The dukkha is basically suffering. We suffer because we cling to things in our lives. Therefore, stop clinging to things. The way to do this according to Buddhists is to follow the eight-fold path. Once this is completed, one has reached Nirvana. When in nirvana, one is guilt free (Through suffering, we sometimes do things because we are unsatisfied. Dissatisfaction frequently motivates us to do things we know we shouldn’t. Doing things we shouldn’t do causes guilt. Therefore, not being satisfied [suffering] can ultimately cause guilt). The problem is that one must cling to the eight-fold path in order to reach nirvana and eradicate guilt! In any event, Buddhism is essentially saying, “you can be guilt free if you let go of absolutely everything impermanent, except the eight-fold path.” When in Nirvana, one does not require the eight-fold path anymore, thus making the eight-fold path itself, impermanent.
It seems that the best way to tackle this type of argument is to show the atheist that the worldview he or she has, allows him or her to do anything, without consequences. Why is rape wrong? Because someone once said it was? Who cares? If we are merely “dancing to our DNA,” as Richard Dawkins so famously put it, then it seems rape would be the natural thing to do. Why is anything wrong through the eyes of the atheist? For that matter, why is anything right?
Even if atheists say that morals are for the survival of mankind, why does this even matter? Eventually (in seven billion years) the Sun will become a red giant, leaving a scorched Earth, and nothing but debris will exist. Charred garbage and dust floating around in outer space, and eventually, even that will burn up. Therefore, who cares what happens? Who cares what we do now? Show him or her that without a transcendent Moral Law Giver, there are no set moral absolutes which will regulate humanity. Conclusively, the atheist frequently borrows the Christian worldview by claiming goodness or wrongness of any kind.

Feel free to reply or ask questions to this post, or on the ATC facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ApologeticalAndTheologicalCommentary

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Answering Trinitarian Questions

Arguing with any Christian cult member in the U.S. will absolutely bring frustration if you are not careful with your words, facial expressions, body language and overall demeanor.
All of the books on witnessing and personal experiences that tell you not to begin the conversation with the Trinity are correct. Often, people will put a barrier up because they think it is the most illogical idea they have ever thought about. The problem is, if you are well mannered long enough, chances are you will have the opportunity to see them again… and again… and again. This is actually a short-term goal, believe it or not. When we find ourselves witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, we most likely will not win them over instantly.
Think about it. How would you feel about giving up Christianity? Put yourself in their shoes. They do not want to leave. They are comfortable, they are confidant, and they are committed in their religion. The same goes with Mormons. For most of them, it is all they know and all they grew up around. It is not only a religion, but it is a culture. Try to leave your culture. It is basically impossible.
I stayed in Greece for a month and at the end of my time there, you could still pick me out of a crowd, and people actually did just that. I even had a nickname at the train station and the chestnut roasting stand: “Cowboy.” On top of all of this, I have red hair, so that probably didn’t help me blend in at all.
My sister, lived in the southern U.S. states for most of her adult life, yet she does not speak with a southern accent whatsoever. She also lived in France for some time and is fluently trilingual! Yet, to me, she is still easily recognized as my sister and does not at all speak with an accent. Her facial expressions, body language and demeanor have never extremely changed.
The point is, being in a cult is more than being in a religion, it is being in a cult as well as a culture, which are related in that they both come from the root meaning of the word cultivate, which finds its meaning in the preparation of land for crops. In any event, I think the point is clearly understood here and this issue seems to be part of the problem in witnessing to Christian cults in the U.S. It is hard to get out of our comfort zone. Consider this when speaking with those who do not know the one true God.
Anyway, as mentioned above, you want to continue seeing them or stay in contact. The more they talk with you and realize that you are not a demon, the more they will trust you and see that you have a brain inside your head and eventually you may become a person of influence (The key to this is found in 1 Peter 3:15, but also, I believe, in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22).
Get on their level. The only way to do that is if you spend time with them. Sure, you can plant a seed of doubt after one good conversation, but how many seed could you plant after a hundred conversations? Your foundations in Christianity will not falter because Christianity is the truth. This is the ultimate answer to the question, “Why are you a Christian?” In any case, plant a bag of seeds of doubt. As Greg Koukl would say in Tactics, “Put a stone in their shoe.” Maybe we should keep on putting stones in their shoes… Pour gravel in their shoes.
So the problem that arises with befriending a member from a different religion is that eventually, one of you will break the ice and mention the Trinity. On a basic understanding, we want to show them that yes, there is one God (Shema, Deut. 6:4), and He exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (See Matthew 28:19–20; John 1:1–2; Acts 5:3–4; Colossians 2:9). This is the first seed (or stone). We want to give them something to stumble over theologically.
Ask the question: “Why can’t there be One God in Three Persons? There is one internet with a billion websites?” Explain to them that the websites are all the “internet” yet they are their own website.
I know that trying to explain the Trinity by using some silly earthly analogies are impossible. The Trinity is far beyond anything analogous found in this universe, but maybe (just maybe) it will help members of other religions put their guard down about the Trinity and open some hearts and minds. Nevertheless, keep cultivating those seeds.

Feel free to reply or ask questions to this post, or on the ATC facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ApologeticalAndTheologicalCommentary

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Three reasons Christians are shying away from teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus.

I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I have some experiences with my dad that I now look back on with bewilderment. One time when I was very young, my dad was going outside and I asked him where he was going. He told me that he was going to throw corn on the roof of the house in order to feed the reindeer (I assumed that it was so they could eat while Santa was busy stuffing his fat butt through the chimney). Either he asked me, or I asked him if I could come and help. He said yes, of course. So he pulled a bucket of corn (dried corn on the ear, mind you) from the garage and there we were, throwing corn on the roof in the snow. I remember seeing several of the cobs rolling down into the gutter, but some of them stayed where they landed. In any event, it hadn’t crossed my mind that Santa was a fraud at this time in my life. Every time I saw a jet fly way above our house, I thought it was Rudolph, the red-nosed-reindeer because all I saw was a blinking red light.
One Christmas morning, I was awoken to my dad shaking me and when he saw my eyes pop open, he asked me if I wanted to go open Christmas presents, just him and me! It was 3:00AM and I was so deeply excited that I was trembling.
Needless to say, reflecting on my past experiences and the experiences of others is how this article came about.

Here are 3 reasons Christians are shying away from teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus:

Because it distracts us from the work of Christ. A familiar bumper sticker says, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” and sometimes has a picture of the Nativity included. Some people might look at this and think it is ridiculous because they believe Christianity is a thing of the past and wonder how it even still exists as a world religion, let alone the largest of the world religions.
Jesus had an enormous impact on the people of earth. He spoke like no other, His name and reputation are matchless, and He performed miracles because He is God in the flesh. God became a man to come into the world to die for our sins. What does that mean? It means that we fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Because we fall short, we are now in a situation. We need a savior because we have broken God’s Law. God said, “Do not commit adultery” (7th Commandment, Exodus 20), yet Jesus shows us that we do it all the time in our hearts (Matthew 5). Have you ever looked on someone else with lust?
If your answer is yes, then you know that you fall short of God’s glory (bear with me). The Good News (gospel) is that Jesus took our place in God’s eyes, and all we have to do is believe in Him as Lord and Savior because God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9; John 6:28-29). We no longer are under God’s wrath, but not only that, we get to live for eternity with Jesus (John 3:16)!
What in the world does this have to do with Santa Claus? The answer is nothing. Some people might try to say that St. Nicholas gave gifts and Jesus gives us the gift of life or something like that, but saying that there is no comparison would be an extreme understatement (if it can even be called that). On top of that, St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are not even remotely similar. It is like saying that the Mormon Jesus or the Jehovah’s Witness Jesus and Jesus of the Bible are the same Jesus. In other words, they are not the same and knowing the difference can either be truth or lies, but not both.

Because parents feel bad about lying to their kids. Let’s not forget what this article is about—reasons why Christians are shying away from teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:37; see also James 5:12). Should we ignore this teaching of Jesus because it is harmless to tell our children about Santa Claus? Think about what it teaches them. Silly lies are ok. Harmless lies are ok. Some people would not even call this a lie. They might call it a fib or a joke. The problem with this is that it gives children excuses to lie when they get older. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” he says. If you were her, would you want to know the truth? Why is it not as fun if she did know the truth? Kids have imaginations like no adult. Pretending is one of their hobbies. We like wood working or bowling or sewing or cooking, they are experts at pretending. When I try to pretend, it is like I am acting, and it only ends up being really awkward. Adults are generally not good pretenders. This might be why they flat out lie, because they are trying to help their kids be kids. The problem is that there is a huge difference between lying and pretending.
Parents feel bad about lying to their kids because they look at the people of the world and in the news and see an enormous lack of integrity. People never seem to say what they are going to do (I suppose every person in politics could be an example here). What people do does not match what they say. A person who lacks integrity won’t get very far in anything they do. They won’t be trusted, for one thing. Why would an adult trust someone who isn’t reliable? The main point is that we should ask what teaching our kids to believe in Santa Claus really does for them in the long run. We shouldn’t give them an excuse or a bad example.
I was once talking with a man once who honestly gave me the excuse that he didn’t believe in Jesus because his parents also told him about Santa Claus. Now, there are several logical fallacies committed in this argument, but why would we not make things idiot-proof, as some might say? In any case, it is good to not give kids an excuse to lie or deny Jesus.

Because even though Santa Claus seems to promote giving, in reality the idea promotes materialism and commercialism. Americans are probably more materialistic than anyone in the world. I’m sure I could find a statistic that reveals the correctness of this premise, but I am so confident that I am correct that I don’t feel the need to bother. I am sure that you would not disagree.
It seems that this results from the mentality of the American Dream. In the U.S., we believe that getting to the point where we can get or do anything we want is a fulfillment of this dream. In reality, however, we end up loading our houses with more useless garbage that is impossible to sell at yard sales for more than 5% of what we paid for it. Materialism is a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. Another word for this is idolatry. Anytime we put things in front of God is making that thing our God. We are all guilty of it. In fact, I believe that all sin can boil down to idolatry. If we steal, it means we are serving our self, making our self out to be God. All selfishness does this. If we lie, it is because we are protecting ourselves, ultimately putting ourselves in front of God. If we lust, we are worshiping that which we lust. Same goes with coveting. If we murder, we are ending life and acting as God… I think you get the picture. Materialism teaches our young to trust in garbage instead of Jesus.
The focus of commercialism is material wealth. Commercialism seeks to make the highest dollar amount possible, and industries feed off of the latest trends and fads and the fact that people like to keep up with the Jones’s. They know we would buy ridiculous looking blow up lawn ornaments, so they run with it. It might start out as something innocent, but as the dollar amounts keep adding up, so does the hunger for more. In the end, the manufacturer is all about quantity and they are trusting in the almighty dollar. They are worshiping money and wealth. They play off of this harmless lie we tell our children. Think about it. What other reason would we buy this junk? In any event, it is a waste of money and all we are doing is promoting things we should maybe reconsider.

Christians are shying away from teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus because they know they should be. These are only three reasons, and I am sure you could think of more. Please feel free to share and comment on other reasons the fictitious Santa Claus should not be taught as fact to our children.

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus