Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Believe In Miracles


Last night an atheist asked me: “How can a rational person . . . accept . . . miracles . . .”

This question, like most questions, has built-in assumptions. The clear inference is this: It is irrational to believe in miracles.

It is? Why? Why is it irrational to believe in miracles?

You see, the limits or boundaries of rationality are determined by one’s worldview which is predicated upon or framed within presuppositions (beliefs we hold to be axiomatic). Therefore, it is one’s first principles which must be examined.

In other words, if one believes in the existence of God then it is entirely rational for one to believe in miracles. On the other hand, if one disbelieves in God then one will find the belief in miracles to be irrational.

We could simply say it like this: IF God exists then miracles are possible. If God does not exist—if the universe is a closed system of natural processes—then miracles are impossible.

Miracles hinge upon God.

Therefore, one cannot attack the rationality of believing in miracles without smuggling into the assault an atheistic pre-commitment. Such ventures are tantamount to asserting: It is irrational to believe in miracles because there is no God.

But this assertion is merely begging the question. That is, it assumes what has not been proven or demonstrated, i.e. there is no God. Naturally, I categorically reject the a priori assumption of God’s non-existence. And since I affirm the existence of God it is only rational that I believe in miracles.

So the question as to whether miracles are possible, and the issue of rationally believing or disbelieving in them, cannot be properly separated from the underlying matter of the existence of God. 

Thus questioning the rationality of believing in miracles is a bit like putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Abolition of C.S. Lewis


His friends called him Jack. The rest of us know him as C.S. Lewis. His genius for conveying truth on multiple levels in multiple genres is, to my mind, without parallel. And, he got me kicked out of a Facebook group last week.

“An atheist group?” you ask. No, a Christian one.

You see, my previous blog spot is a defense of prayer against an atheist antagonist. In the article I reference C. S. Lewis. I posted the article in the group and was promptly informed by an administrator that C.S. Lewis was a “heretic” of the worst sort.

She inquired if I was familiar with Lewis and if I knew he was an “impostor.” I assured her that I am indeed very familiar with him and that I am positive he was not an “impostor” but rather an Anglican.  

She was not amused.

I further explained that quoting is not the same thing as endorsing—that to agree with some statements is not to agree with all statements.

She totally disagreed.

I then asked her if she believes that the Apostle Paul endorses and agrees with all that the pagan poets have to say when he quotes them in Acts 17. (Similarly, we could mention Jude’s quoting of “The Book of Enoch.”)

I also told her that I was not an apologist for C.S. Lewis and wouldn’t comment on him any further, but I would be most happy to discuss prayer—which is what the article in question is about.

That’s when I found myself on the outside looking in: BANNED.

I didn’t even get a mock trial. This was a papal-like bull (or perhaps some sort of Protestant bull) delivered with the full force and speed of a Facebook anathema. Too late did I realize that I had just run afoul of a gal who had a keyboard with a hair-trigger and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

I can’t help but believe that our stunted, shall we say, discourse, reveals much more about her than C.S. Lewis or me.

What should we think of such an encounter?

Well, my knee-jerk response was: This is why the Apostle Paul disallowed women in leadership. (Yeah, I know…that’s another whole debate that I’m not interested in having.) But for the record, I quickly recovered myself! (When it comes to the war against women I’m a pacifist, you see.)
  
My second and more serious thought is this: I was more respectfully treated by the professing atheist to whom I was speaking in the article, than the professing Christian who read it. How sad.

My third premise is: It’s this kind of illogical thinking and behaving which give Christianity’s detractors sticks to beat us with. Certainly, the majority of Christians aren’t as unreasonable as this woman and her C.S. Lewis hating cohorts, but the enemies of our faith are proficient in broad-brush painting. Suffice it to say, slow to think, quick to quarrel Christians make the apologetic task more difficult.

I grow increasingly weary of bickering believers. I really do.

Even so, what should our attitude be towards our unthinking—and sometimes hostile—weaker brothers and sisters? In this particular instance I’ll paraphrase the prayer of our Lord: Father forgive them for they don’t know Jack.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Pray?

In response to “An Atheist’s PrayerRequest” a gentleman offered,

Prayer is certain proof of god's incompetence, lack of honor and lack of compassion. A truly just god would never need to be reminded of obligations to heal the sick and injured, to keep the innocent from harm or to protect the faithful. A god who needs reminding (prayers) is a pathetic excuse for a deity.

Below is my response.

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I'm not sure why you think of prayer as a matter of God's "need[ing] to be reminded." Why would anyone pray to a forgetful god?

Thus we are agreed: A god who would need to be reminded would be a pathetic excuse for a deity—a false god, if you will.

But prayer has nothing to do with God's needs. It has everything to do with our needs. And while prayer does not provide God with new information, it does provide us with an avenue for self-disclosure (a vital aspect of genuine relating).

How awful would it be if our children never spoke to us because they understood that we—as wise parents—already know their needs and will meet them? My children need the things I afford them but they need me (their father) more than the things I give them.

Even so, our greatest need is to be in communion with God Himself. That is, we need God more than the things we may ask Him for. Prayer meets this greater need.

What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself? . . . Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. (C.S. Lewis, “George MacDonald An Anthology,” p.41).

You may presently be unaware of or vehemently deny your need for God, but perhaps someday you will think otherwise. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

An Atheist's Prayer Request, pt. 2

An atheist writes:

If you don't mind, please ask God to reveal himself to me. Maybe group prayer will help. . . . I have sought God for many years, but I have received no confirmation of his existence. Please pray. Also, if you could share your experience of receiving confirmation, I would enjoy hearing it. How did you come to know that God exists?

Below is part 2 of my response. Part 1 is here.

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You ask for “confirmation” of God’s existence based upon “experience.” This seems very odd.

CS Lewis (a Christian professor and author) once observed: “What we learn from experience depends upon the philosophy we bring to experience.” This is undoubtedly true. (For example, you and I experience the same universe yet what we learn from our shared experience—at least in regards to the Christian faith—is most dissimilar.)

Experience settles what?

Theists claim to “experience” God and non-theists claim to not “experience” Him. However, I’ve “experienced” or “felt” things which are untrue and then I’ve not “felt” or “experienced” things which are quite true.

Hence it seems to me that “experience” (or the lack thereof) is a very poor determiner or arbiter of truth. Frankly, “experience” (or the lack thereof) to one may be “psychosis” to another.

Correlatively, you inquire: “How did you come to know that God exists?

This, of course, is not a question of ontology but of epistemology—the justification of knowledge. In other words, how does one “know” things?

Well, we “know” different things in different ways. I “know” my wife loves me differently than I “know” 2-2=0; and I “know” George Washington was the first President of the United States differently than I “know” I drank coffee at breakfast this morning. And so on.

That being said, Alvin Plantinga insists (convincingly to my mind) that belief in God is “properly basic.” That is, our knowledge of God is not predicated upon arguments or evidences (though these things do exist). Rather, such knowledge—the knowledge of God—is innate.

I know this to be true in my experience, and I’d wager that it’s true in the experience of ninety-eight percent of all people past, present, and future.