How to escape the Bible with your theology intact

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There is a way of using the Bible to support your theology that really just amounts to doing everything in your power to avoid what the Bible has to say so that you can escape from the ravages of Scripture with your precious doctrine still intact.

Without naming names, over the last year I have had several conversations about the doctrine of hell with people who advocate the doctrine of eternal torment, where they argued in a manner very much like John in the following conversations (right down to the same phraseology, eg “equally likely as an interpretation” and “use Scripture to interpret Scripture”):

Karen: Hi John. Have you read passage A? It seems to pretty clearly deny the doctrine of eternal torment. It says that one day the lost will be destroyed. They will die and be gone. Don’t you agree?

John: No, I don’t think so. I think eternal torment is equally likely as an interpretation. Continue reading “How to escape the Bible with your theology intact”

You don’t matter just because I care

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We can’t erase the fact that abortion is homicide just because we aren’t as attached to the unborn as we are to other humans. The truth is that whether or not your life has value, and whether or not you are disposable, cannot be determined by how I feel about you.

There’s a view that pro-lifers (those who think it is wrong to kill unborn humans) are ignoring the reality that the death of an unborn child is less tragic than the death of somebody else. The death of an unborn is not the death of a human – not really – and actually we all know it, because we react differently to the death of an unborn child than to the death of somebody else. So wrote one blogger:

If you try to get pregnant and fail, it is frustrating. If you have a heavy menstruation slightly late, suggesting that fertilization occurred but the pregnancy failed very early on, it is even sadder. But it is not the same as managing to be pregnant for several months and then finding that the fetus has died. And that in turn is nowhere near as tragic as having your delivery date arrive and the child be stillborn.

Mothers know this. Fathers who’ve experienced any aspect of this know it too. And so how can so many people nonetheless accept the stark and unnuanced claim that “abortion is murdering babies” without a blink?

Continue reading “You don’t matter just because I care”

Dawkins Still Doesn’t Get Arguments for God

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Richard Dawkins isn’t stupid. He’s a bright spark. This makes me think that his muddle-headedness about arguments for God’s existence can’t be written off as a dullard’s inability to understand. The confusion must surely be an intentional tactic to confuse matters, giving his fans the impression that arguments for God’s existence are just a bit of a mess. The (possibly kinder) alternative is that Dawkins exhibits an inexcusable laziness and hubris, pontificating about arguments that he has never taken the time to understand because he just knows that religious beliefs are a load of nonsense.

At a public event to discuss his recent book about himself this month, Dr Dawkins was asked what he considers to be the best argument for God’s existence. Naturally, he prefaced his answer with a reminder that he doesn’t believe in God or that there are any good arguments for God’s existence. But if pressed for the best argument out there, here is what he says:

Continue reading “Dawkins Still Doesn’t Get Arguments for God”

Pro-life slogans and groupthink

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I’ve seen a couple people share this picture. I’ve removed the original speaker’s name, but he’s a relatively well-known speaker in Evangelical circles and is does a lot of work in Christian apologetics. I also have no particular issue with him in general, so I didn’t want to make it about him at all.

Think about what is stated here:

If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary.
However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.

You may think it unfair to criticise such a short piece of text. Surely I’m taking things out of context. I disagree. Someone put this picture together to share, all by itself. Presumably the intention in sharing it is that someone will see it and see that it really spells out a simple truth in a clear and concise way. I don’t believe that even couched in a much longer talk, the meaning of what is claimed here could properly be construed in anything other than a direct, literal way.

When I saw this picture being shared, I asked pro-lifers (those of us who believe that abortion is, prima facie, morally indefensible) not to share it. I asked them to be more careful and critical than that. Continue reading “Pro-life slogans and groupthink”

Hell and broken thinking

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Life is worth nothing. Having eternal life is worth nothing. Nothing at all. Enjoying eternity with God is not something to be prized, so if you lose it, you have lost nothing. No big deal. It has no value. If you lost your life, or you had the chance of eternal life taken from you (when it is actually a real possibility), then you have lost nothing at all. Zip.

If you tell anybody that this is not so, then you’re not a real Christian, but a phony. If you deny these things, then you’re accursed. You must tell people that these things are true, because if you tell them anything else, you’re not being loving. You’re just letting them die in their sins. If you want to be faithful to God, then you must tell people that their lives are worthless, and that there is no value in eternal life. This is an essential part of defending the Gospel.

Of course none of that is true. It is bizarre, false, and certainly not a view that I would ever call biblical or Christian. And yet, I have just read an article by the head of a major Evangelical apologetics organisation in which he claimed all of these things. Continue reading “Hell and broken thinking”

Pat answers: No, do not steal his wallet

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So I have this problem with Christian pat answers.

I recently watched a clip of footage from a conference where a panel of experts (or so I assume) was addressing pastoral, moral and theological questions. This question was basically: My brother isn’t a Christian. He doesn’t believe that there’s any such thing as sin, so we don’t need to be saved from it. What should I say to him?

Listen to the answer for yourself: Continue reading “Pat answers: No, do not steal his wallet”

Book Review: The End of Apologetics

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Myron Bradley Penner, The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013) (Follow this link to get the book in electronic format from Logos.)

Full disclosure: I do not publicly label myself an “apologist.” However, in some ways that’s what I am just by virtue of many of the things that I do and say, and there are others who refer to me that way. At times I defend the truth claims of Christianity against criticisms, and at times I offer reasons for thinking that those claims are true. That is what “apologetics” means here. I have my share of problems with the “apologetics culture,” if I can speak of any such thing. But I appreciate the fact that I can separate apologetics per se from the various cultural forms in which it is expressed.

Myron Penner quite openly does not have this appreciation, or indeed much regard at all for the practice of Christian apologetics. What follows is my review of his book where he explains himself. The review is not exhaustive, so there may well be times where somebody reading this review might note “but you didn’t note that Penner says….” I probably did not. But I have read it, and if I didn’t mention it here it’s because I think that what I do say here takes it into account.

Further disclosure: Given some of my reservations about certain aspects of the apologetics culture, I expected that I might find at least a considerable amount of agreement with this book. But I may as well honestly say that I did not. I disagreed with nearly all of it, and also found it disagreeable (those two reactions are quite different from each other).

Here goes… Continue reading “Book Review: The End of Apologetics”

Are “fundies” inconsistent on homosexuality?

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It happens far too often that somebody thinks that they are criticisng simplistic fundamentalism, when in fact they are the practitioner, rather than the genuine critic, of simplistic thinking.

Someone recently pointed out a video clip of a guy named John talking about homosexual relationships and the Bible. This is the point where I would normally offer a one-sentence summary of what his central claim is, but I’m not absolutely sure what it is. It has something to do with homosexuality, the f-word (fundamentalists), and consistency. Here’s the clip:

Continue reading “Are “fundies” inconsistent on homosexuality?”

Name that Fallacy! Robert Peterson on Annihilationism

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In the “name that fallacy” series I showcase some examples of how not to argue; cases of either formal or informal logical fallacies. The latter of these two categories covers a significant range of possibilities, and it’s sometimes a matter of some controversy whether someone’s comments really fit into any of them – especially when they’re your comments! The intent of the series is to help people (and help people to help each other) recognise fallacious reasoning when it occurs, whether it’s used in defence of a position they share or not.

For this “name that fallacy” post, let’s step into into the territory of theology. This time the topic is hell, and our subject is one Robert Peterson. Dr Peterson is a well-known evangelical opponent of annihilationism. Annihilationism is the view that those people who are not saved, or redeemed, or counted among God’s people – or call that state what you will – will not have eternal life, and will finally die and one day be no more. The following is an excerpt from Peterson’s closing comments in an article called “Does the Bible Teach Annihilationism?” It’s important that you bear the title in mind, as it sets out what the argument is about: Whether or not the Bible teaches annihilationism. Without further ado, I give you the words of Dr Robert Peterson:

Annihilationists insist that the obliteration of the wicked is a terrible destiny when measured against the bliss of the righteous. However, it is simply not that bad to cease to exist, especially in comparison to suffering in hell forever… This leads to the final implication. If annihilationism is widely accepted by Christians, the missionary enterprise may well be hindered. True, some evangelicals such as John Stott and Michael Green have consistently shown a zeal for evangelism while holding to annihilationism. Nevertheless what would be the effect on churches and denominations that once held to eternal conscious torment, if they were to shift to annihilationism? Their missionary zeal might well wane.

NOTE: This series is called “name THAT fallacy,” but bear in mind that in some cases there may be more than one.

Have fun – name that fallacy!

Glenn Peoples

Episode 038: Zeitgeist

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At the request of a couple of listeners, this episode is a response to the documentary: Zeitgeist.

As I promised in the episode, here are a few links.

First, a link to some astronomical illustrations: http://www.tracer345.org/zeitgeist.html

And here are the links to my three part blog series on evidence for the historical Jesus outside the New Testament, as promised:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

You might also find it helpful to check out my previous blogs on copycat theories about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.