C.S. Lewis on atheist thinking

Was CS Lewis a Christian? Buy CS Lewis books? Is CS Lewis a favorite author?

Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.

C.S. Lewis

[Emphasis mine]
This quote from noted theologian C.S. Lewis highlights a major problem for modern atheists: they borrow heavily from a worldview they reject. When thinking about the process of thinking, atheists assume that their brains can be relied upon to give good answers. In a universe of philosophical materialism (the idea that the physical is all that exists), there’s no good reason to assume that our brains are trustworthy in that way. In fact, Darwinian evolution would suggest otherwise, because our brains are then the result of many random mutations and natural selection. In other words, our brains contribute to the survival and spread of our genetic information…and everything else is “gravy”. Any other function our brains might perform could be eliminated after another mutation.

If our brains are simply biochemical and not the creation of some greater mind; if our brains are not connected to an immaterial mind; if the physical is all that truly exists, we can’t trust in reason to get us anything but grandchildren. The only way to speak meaningfully about reliable ideas is to presuppose that our brains function as something more than a blob of DNA-spreading goo.

Why is Religion Divisive?

Should Christians fight? Can a Christian be a fighter? How to avoid conflict in church.

One simple reason is that we tend to think that God loves us for what we do. If God loves us because we’re nice, it becomes easy to look down on mean people. If God loves us because we’re generous, we have no trouble being critical of stingy people. If God loves us because we’re liberal, open-minded people, we tend to look down on bigoted, conservative people. If God loves us because we’re traditional people of faith, it only makes sense to believe that God loves progressives and atheists less than He loves us.

The Bible teaches that God loves us NOT for what we do, but because of WHO WE ARE. We are His creation, the focus of His affection. Jesus died as a demonstration of God’s love for us…not because we’re good, but because we need to know His love. That’s grace: God loves you even when you don’t love Him. When people understand grace, they stop thinking of others as less worthy of God’s love.

When we see others through the lens of good works, we tend to be critical and exclude others. When we see others through the lens of grace, we tend to be generous and compassionate and include others. When we measure the effectiveness of the American church at reaching out to the unsaved, it seems obvious to me that we seldom offer to others the same grace we’ve been given.

What is Solipsism?

Are minds real? Do humans have free will? Is evolution true?

Solipsism is the idea that only one’s own mind is certain to exist.

Very few people are sincere solipsists. Instead, solipsism is generally used as an argumentation tool. For example, one might ask how another knows that something is true, to which a scoffing reply might be “How does anyone know that anything is true? The only thing we can know for sure is that we exist.”

This point of view is related to René Descartes’ famous line: I think, therefore I am. Descartes wrote about his philosophy as if he were the first to ever do so…that is, he didn’t take into account any previous philosophical positions about truth when writing, and wanted to avoid making any assumptions when thinking about reality. This is the basis for modern philosophy (which I love, and studied in college) and a reasonable position to take when asking the question, “What do I really know to be true?”.

While solipsism shares Descartes’ radical skepticism, it goes beyond it to become irrational. While it’s true that I may be the only being to exist, I cannot live as if that’s true. I must live as if I am surrounded by others who also have minds, and that they are actual beings and not constructs of my mind.

Easter in the KJV

Is the Bible true? Are Bible translations bad? What language is the Bible?

2011 is the 400 year-anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible…so it’s getting a lot of well-deserved attention these days. One kind of attention, however, isn’t so good. The “King James Only” movement exalts the KJV above all other Bibles.

What’s the big deal, you say? You say that it doesn’t seem like preferring one Bible over another is a problem. You’re right. If that’s all it was, nobody would care.

Instead, the KJO movement makes some outlandish statements about God, the Bible, and the King James. It’s not a monolithic movement, so you’ll find that some are more “out there” than others. Here’s a sampling of the kinds of things that KJO folks believe:

  • The King James Version is the only legitimate English Bible.
  • The King James Version was supernaturally translated by God.
  • The King James Version is more accurate than the original Bible manuscripts.
  • The King James Version contains no errors.
  • The King James Version is the only Bible in the world that can be trusted.

Not all KJO advocates believe all of that, of course. Some simpy believe that it’s the most accurate English Bible, and consider it only marginally better than other Bibles. Others believe that to read any other Bible is to take part in a satanic conspiracy to remove the truth from the Gospel story.

Now you can see the problem. It’s a cultic movement.

Any honest and curious student can find that there are errors in the King James Versions of the Bible. That does NOT mean that God’s Word has been compromised, of course…only that the KJO position is based in ignorance. All it takes to show that the KJV is not flawless is a single error. Here’s one of dozens, from Acts 12:4…

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

What’s the problem with that? Simple: “Easter” should read “Passover”. That’s the proper translation of PASCHA, which agrees with verses like Matthew 26:2, Matthew 26:17, Matthew 26:18, Matthew 26:19, Mark 14:1, Mark 14:12, Mark 14:14, Mark 14:16, Luke 2:41, Luke 22:1, Luke 22:7, John 6:4, John 11:55, and so on.

I could point to many more examples, but there’s no need. Those who exalt the KJV do so because they don’t know better, or because they refuse to see the truth. Those who don’t know better can look at even a single example and know what’s going on, but those who refuse to see the truth can gloss over 50 such errors without blinking.

I sincerely hope you’re willing to look at the evidence. I’ll post other examples, in case you’re not convinced. KJO folks are notoriously loyal to their point of view, so you should know that I’ve never convinced one of them to drop the nonsensical view that the KJV is flawless. In fact, I lost a Facebook friend just this morning over this very post. He didn’t want “strife” on his page, so he removed me. I would prefer that he do a little homework and see that he’s been leading people astray, but I’m not sure he’s willing.

I’m down a friend. If you’d like to be my friend on Facebook, I promise to continue doing what I’m doing. =)

Should Christians go to Landmark Forum?

Is Intelligent Design true? is evolution wrong? How old is the earth?

A GodWords reader asks:

Going to Landmark Forum if you are a Christian…is this a bad thing?

Marlice

Well, Marlice…thanks for asking!

I’m a Christian, and I went to Landmark Forum. It’s not a bad thing to GO. What IS bad is to listen, and to learn, and to change your life based on their teachings.

Christianity and the teachings of Landmark Forum are not at all compatible! Landmark Forum says that nothing has any value at all, except that which we give it…so there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no evil, and no sin. A Christian is a follower of Jesus, who taught the opposite. Certain things ARE right and wrong, and we should know the difference. Certain things ARE good and bad, and evil exists. In case you haven’t seen it, I wrote an article on GodWords about a visit to a Landmark meeting, and about my three-hour discussion with the leader afterward. You can read about my Landmark experience.

When someone says that there’s no such thing as sin, they put themselves in God’s place. It’s up to THEM to decide what to do. Christians are not free to do whatever we think is best. Instead, we’re to study Scripture, do what Jesus taught, and listen to the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

I was able to visit Landmark Forum without concern because

  1. I was already aware of much of their teachings,
  2. I’m a mature believer who’s already familiar with what the Bible teaches, and
  3. My goal was to help my friend…she’s been duped by Landmark Forum into believing what can’t possibly be true.

If all three of those are true of you, you can go to Landmark Forum without worry.

If all three are NOT true of you, I’d advise that you not go. Be aware that they are VERY good (as an organization, historically) at manipulation. A quick Google search will show you dozens (if not hundreds) of personal testimonials to the techniques they use. I’m immune to their teachings, but MOST CHRISTIANS ARE NOT. That doesn’t make me special…just more prepared. I’ve spent years studying movements like Landmark Forum, so I’m ready for whatever they might throw my way. If you consider yourself young in the faith at all, I would stay far away from any Landmark meeting.

I’m curious: has someone told you that the teachings of Landmark Forum and Christianity ARE compatible?

Hazardous Holy Water

Is the Eastern Orthodox church the only true church? What do Eastern Orthodox believe?

In Russia, most of the tap water is undrinkable.

In Russia, some folks drank the tap water anyway. Why did they do it? Well, they looked at the calendar and assumed that everything would be different. Yes, I know that sounds odd. It was January 19th, which is when they celebrate Epiphany…when Jesus, who is God become man, was ‘made known’ to the world.

For some reason, these people believe(d) that any water obtained on Epiphany would be “holy” water. For some reason, these people – 117 of them – required medical treatment for acute intestinal pain.

Holy water is traditionally used, by those in the Orthodox tradition, for baptism or for the blessing of people, places, or objects. It may also be used at times in exorcisms. While they claim that the idea of using holy water comes from the Apostle Matthew, there’s no Biblical support for this idea. It can be traced back to around 500 years after Christ, and then only to a story of a man who cast out a demon using water he had blessed. There seem to be many traditions about holy water, but none with strong evidence for how the practice got started.

With all due respect to my Orthodox and Catholic friends, holy water is bunk. The idea is that a holy man can bless the water and give it some kind of spiritual power, which can then be used to make better the lives of those who use it. We see absolutely nothing like that in Scripture, of course…and for good reason: God doesn’t work that way.

Sure, God can and might at any time use water in any way He chooses…but that’s not the same as a priest (or any any regular dude, as the tradition goes) saying a prayer and changing the properties of the water. That’s superstition, pure and simple.

Harold Camping and Jesus’ Second Coming

Don't buy snake oil.

Harold Camping says he knows a thing or two about Jesus’ return.

Born in 1921, Camping claims to have scrutinized the Bible for around 70 years. I suppose it’s his background in engineering that led him to develop a mathematical system to ‘properly interpret’ Biblical prophecy. Camping has crunched the numbers and, according to his latest calculations, was surprised to learn that Jesus will come back on May 21, 2011.

Harold Camping predicts the rapture

Unfortunately for Mr. Camping, this isn’t the first time he’ll be wrong about what’s popularly known as “the Rapture”. On September 6, 1994, dozens of his followers gathered to wait for the big event…only to go home disappointed and disillusioned. Camping suggested that he might have miscalculated when he had written a book about the then-upcoming date titled 1994?.

After running the numbers for another dozen years or so, he’s come to the conclusion that his alternate date from that time was probably correct: May 21, 2011. Want to know how he came up with that date? Camping’s idea is that each word and number in the Bible has a secondary meaning.

The number 5, Camping concluded, equals “atonement.” Ten is “completeness.” Seventeen means “heaven.” Camping patiently explained how he reached his conclusion for May 21, 2011.

“Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.,” he began. “Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that’s 1,978 years.”

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days – the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

“Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved.

“I tell ya, I just about fell off my chair when I realized that,” Camping said.

San Francisco Chronicle

Mr. Camping’s calculations have come under fire from Christians, who point to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24 about His second coming: no one knows the day or the hour of His return, not even He Himself.

I’d like to personally challenge Mr. Camping to act with integrity on May 22, 2011. On that date, it will be refreshing to hear him publicly and undeniably say that he was wrong. I’ve extended the same challenge to other would-be prophets with little success, so I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m just saying that it would be cool to see a retraction.

In case you were wondering, Mr. Camping has not made a retraction.