Thursday, 31 May 2007

What Is a Life Worth.

I just posted the following on the atheits discussion board I used to frequent. It will be interesting to see what response I get:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have just finished reading Richard Dawkins' woefully simplistic book, "The God Delusion". On page 13 & 14 he quotes Julian Baggini from, "Atheism: A VeryShort Introduction
Quote:
What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff come minds, beauty, emotions, moral values -- in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.
With this in mind, I drove into the city today along the highway, and I took a life. In fact I took a number of lives. Bugs were splattered all over my windshield.

I would be interested in hearing if an atheist could tell me, using sound reason and consistent logic, and assuming completely naturalistic preconceptions, why these bugs' lives were not inherently equal to the same number of human lives. IOW, what, other than merely your own opinion, makes a human life more valuable than, say, a mosquito's, or, when you get right down to it, that of an AIDS virus? Or, if we are nothing more than a collection of molecules, more valuable than a clump of dirt? Or, indeed, is it?

Whatever your answer, the question to ask is, "Why?"

Take Care

1961 Vauxhall Victor


This is the first car I ever owned. I posted previously on the first one I actually bought, but this one was paid for my father for me to attend McMaster University. Mine was pretty much the same colour as this one, black and white. It was a British car, but rather "Americanized", with a bench seat, a column shift and a 'dog-leg' windshield. Being young and lacking in taste, I took off all the hubcaps, painted the rims black and put on chrome lug nuts. I also discovered I could rearrange the letters in “Vauxhall” to read “Havalux”.

I installed a big “8-ball” shift knob on the column shift. Between my younger brother and I and the ‘speed shifting’ we practised on the car, after some time the transmission linkage became so loose that we could just depress the clutch in 2nd gear and the weight of the shift knob would drop it automatically down into 3rd.

This is the car I was driving in the fall of 1963, on Main St West in Hamilton ON when I first heard the Beatles. I remember the announcer on CKOC saying that here was a new group that was making it big in England. Then he played, I think it was, “She Loves You.” It is one of those moments that one remembers as clearly, almost, as the day it happened, as in my case, the day President Kennedy was shot and the day God stepped in front of me and gave me no choice but to acknowledge Him as LORD.

This little car was a good one, but then again, any car had to be good to put up with the abuse we gave them back then.

Take Care

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Death At C.W. Jefferys

A young student was shot to death last week at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in Toronto, the result, apparently, of some argument. The school is in the infamous so-called "Jane-Finch" corridor, a racially diverse “planned community” that apparently hasn't gone exactly according to plan.

This was also the high school my wife Eva attended. It was brand new then, in the mid-1960’s, before the area became the dark and unlit area it is today. She was in the school's first graduating class. My aunt, Marjorie Wells, taught there. She was the head of the commercial department, and it was through her that Eva got her first full-time job, as one of C.W. Jefferys’ secretaries, the first graduating student to be hired by the school. It was in that school’s hallway that she tells me she first saw me, this tall and gangly boy loping past the office door on his way to visit his aunt, although we didn’t officially meet until a few months later, again, through my aunt.

It was also in that school’s hallway that a 15 year old boy was shot to death last week.

Ontario politicians are now whining about banning handguns, as if that would solve the problem. As if we might just as easily be reading about a stabbing instead of a shooting.

There seems to be a particular mindset among “public servants” that is the reason they become public servants in the first place. That is that they seem to think they have the answer to every problem and that it is their duty to put such personally conceived solutions into place by force or legislation whether the people on the receiving end of their assistance want them or not. This thinking is illustrated by both the current call for banning handguns and the perceived need, forty years ago, for a community such as Jane-Finch in the first place.

There is another thing. But it is a point that cannot be made. It is a fact that must not be faced. It is a word that must not be spoken. It has to do with colour. It has to do with race. But no politician, provincial or municipal dare mention it, because to do so would be to bring down upon their head the “R” word: racist.

But someone has to do it. People in Jane-Finch have to stand up and stop blaming everyone but themselves. They must look inward. Someone has to do what Bill Cosby did in the US and say, “Look what we’re doing to ourselves. Let’s just stop it!” Blaming it on poverty, racism, police persecution, etc. will never solve the problems. The one to blame for that young boy’s death is the one whose finger pulled the trigger. That’s where the rubber meets the road and that is the first thing that needs to be admitted. Once that has been acknowledged, the other, secondary issues can be addressed.

Here is an article from a couple of years ago. Pray for their success. Bringing people one heart at a time to Jesus Christ may not seem like the fastest way to solve the community’s problems, but it is the surest and best way.

Take Care

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

1941 GMC and a Fish Dinner


This is another vehicle I didn't own, but it did cross my path once and as you may guess, there is a story involved, even if the truck above plays only a minor part.

I believe it was the summer of 1961 or 1963. I know it wasn't 1962 because that was the summer I spent in Europe. I was working for the summer at Arkell's canning factory in Grimsby Ontario. It was the height of peach season. My job was to unload farmers' trucks as they brought their harvest of peaches in bushel baskets to the lot behind the factory, then to load them again onto a flat-deck trailer pulled by a tractor into the plant for processing. It was an endless circle of activity; farmers trucks in, trailer loads out, day after day.

One of the farmers was an elderly gentleman who drove a truck much like the one above. Twice a day, morning and afternoon, he would drive in with exactly 16 bushels of peaches for us to unload. His truck was a beautiful dark blue GMC with white trim in mint condition. Mind you, it was only 20 years old, the same as a 1987 would be now.

There are two points to this story. One is the beautiful 1941 GMC pickup truck, which I still think of from time to time. The other is my memory of the acres and acres of peaches, three bushels high, that never seemed to diminish. It seemed to the naivety of my youthful eyes like an infinity of peaches, a supply that would never end.

That was then, this is now. Try to find a can of Canadian peaches on the grocer's shelf today. You will look a long time. Most of them come from Australia or China. Much of the once sprawling orchard land of the Niagara Peninsula has fallen into neglect or been converted to industrial parks or housing developments.

I was reminded of this story as I ate fish for dinner tonight. Because one group who might be able to identify with the Niagara peach processors in this sense are those who relied on the East Coast fishery. There was a time when it was thought, too, that the supply of fish would never end. But end it did, and the most concrete trace of them is in the memories of those of whose lives they were a part.

It all just brings to mind how fleeting are the things of this world. Not exactly the context, but this is the Scripture that came to mind:

"...the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." (1 Cor 7:29b-31)

Take Care

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Poverty, Morality and Politics

Timmy Brister posts on a new political emphasis in the next US election for some evangelical Christians. It seems that there are those who feel we Christians should focus, not only on moral issues, but on poverty as well, among other things. Unfortunately, society in general either cannot see the truth or cannot admit it. The truth, that is, that poverty and morality are inseparably intertwined in our society today.

One always hears, at least here in Canada, about the tragedy of child poverty. Now, forgive me if I seem to over generalize. But what is the number one cause of child poverty? Single parenthood. And what are the single greatest reasons for single parenthood? Often it is one of two moral issues. It is either the breaking of promises, i.e., forsaking of solemn vows once made, or some kind of sexual immorality. It may be sexual activity outside the commitment of marriage, common law relationships without the commitment of marriage or adulterous activity which is ignoring the commitment of marriage. It is becoming altogether too ordinary for a relationship between a man and a woman to begin with sex, before the partners really get to know one another. Sooner or later sex becomes less important than true compatibility, and one or the other decides to move on. Usually, rightly or wrongly, it is the man who leaves the woman, and often leaves her with children. In too many cases, the woman is unskilled and undereducated, having become pregnant at a young age. Hence, instant child poverty. And the unforunate result is that another child will probably grow up too poor to get a proper education and will repeat the same mistakes as his parents a generation later.

It is my opinion, borne out by personal observation, that as unacceptable as the legalizing of homosexual marriages and the blessing of same-sex unions will be, by far the worse tragedy, in terms of negative impact on our society, has been the accepting of common-law relationships as equivalent to marriage. It is a statistical fact that common-law relationships have a greater probability of ending in separation. Equally, there is a greater probability that a marriage will end in separation if the couple lived together before marriage. And in the vast majority of such separations it is the man who leaves the woman with the children.

Now, this is not to belittle the struggles involved in single parenting. I know there are many loving single parents doing their best in situations over which they may have little or no control. Nor is it to over-generalize to say that every case is the same. I know there are stories of people who smoked every day of their life and died at the age of 99. And I know there are single-parent success stories. Nor is it to suggest that no common-law relationship can be a loving or long-lasting one. But the fact is that every child is better off with two loving parents to care and provide and to demonstrate their commitment to their relationship by having had exchanged wedding vows before God and witnesses. And the fact remains that at the end of the day the majority of single parent situations are the result of some kind of improper sexual behaviour on someone's part.

But social activists and politicians sensitive to voter opinions cannot see, or cannot admit, the obvious and unarguable truth in this matter. And perhaps some of the Christians involved in the discussion noted above are too timid or too afraid of being accused of insensitivity to state their position publicly. But the issue will not be addressed until the truth is brought into the light. Unfortunately it is much more politically correct to keep it hidden in the dark.

But then again the Bible puts it plainly. Too many in our present-day society love the darkness rather than the light – because their deeds are evil. (John 3:19)

Take Care

Monday, 21 May 2007

Grace, It Seems To Me

It seems to me that there is the notion, or accusation if you like, that Christianity is just like any other religion; that all religions are basically the same. This comes from both inside and outside the church. Some inside, in liberal circles, hold that Jesus was merely a great moral teacher and that Christianity is arrogant to claim any moral superiority over other faiths. Others, outside, charge that Christianity, just like all other religions, is an invention of man and that all religions teach basically the same things about morality and spiritual things, reflecting merely human concepts of right and wrong.

It seems to me that both groups are trying to do the same thing, destroy the orthodox Christian faith, and the effect of both is the same, although the former is sometimes more effective than the latter.

This past Sunday, we considered one of Jesus’ teachings that, it seems to me, puts the lie to all that; the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

This parable, indeed, turns human logic and compassions upside down, inside out, and back to front. It is a story no one would invent, because it is totally contrary to every human concept of fairness and equity. No invented religion would include such a tale or such a teaching. Every natural instinct within us cries out that those who worked the longest should be paid the most. Instead, it does away with the natural concept of fairness, as we would understand it and introduces an unnatural one. It is a completely foreign ingredient, one that did not come from human intellect or human reason. It is the ingredient of grace.

The parable is an illustration of grace utterly unmerited by those to whom it is shown and grace completely sovereignly dispensed by the Master who gives it. It is grace granted at the sole prerogative and discretion of the giver. And it seems so unfair. But God has said elsewhere, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Here, as the owner of the vineyard, He said, “Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” He might just as well have said, “I will show grace to whom I will show grace.”

All other religions are an attempt to reach the God who all cultures, societies and civilizations know and have known is there. My own opinion is that every religion or religious system throughout the history of mankind is either an attempt to reach God or an attempt to avoid Him, either by inventing a more agreeable, less demanding God, or exalting the individual self in the place of God. Christianity differs in that it is the one religion that reveals the grace of the unreachable God who has reached down to man. Man, in his fallen state and in his own strength or resources, could never gain access to God, but God, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, has lovingly reached down in grace to us so that any one of us, whether we began early in life or came along at the ‘eleventh hour’, might have the same reward: that of eternal life in His presence.

Grace, as C.S. Lewis once said, is the one difference between Christianity and every other religion.

Take Care

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Dawkins and Child Abuse

I have written a number of posts on Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion” on this blog. I had intended to work through the book from beginning to end, expressing my thoughts on the various arguments he presents and the points he attempts to make, but he provides so many opportunities to criticize I find it difficult to keep up.

What brings this particular matter forward is an excellent series by Pastor Doug Wilson on a book by Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great”, and specifically, this post about the assertion that a religious upbringing is tantamount to child abuse. In fact, I commented on this post of Pastor Wilson and this particular post is an expansion of my comment there. Dawkins also writes regarding this area of “child abuse”, once again he speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

The applicable chapter on the subject in Dawkins book begins on page 309. I have already made two posts on only the first three pages of the book, so only if the Lord tarried would I make it to the point I want to address now.

On page 311, Dawkins tells of one young Edgardo Mortara, who, in 1858, was taken forcefully by Catholics from his Jewish parents in order to give him a Christian upbringing. Of course, he relates this incident with suitably indignant rage at the injustice of it all. Not many pages later, however; not even enough, one would think, for him not to see his inconsistency, he rails at the horrors of allowing Amish children to remain under their own parents care as opposed to them being compelled to attend high school. One has the distinct impression (although he does not verbalize it) that he would not object at all if Amish children were taken from their homes at a young age to be raised more suitably by the state.

Now, I am not here defending the Amish way of life, and their resistance, if that it be, to higher education. In fact I would strenuously disagree with it. Nor am I defending the taking of little Edgardo from his own home. I have had ministry experience with Native Canadians still suffering from the policy on the part of our own government years ago of forcibly removing children from their homes and sending them to residential schools to de-culture them and try to turn them into little White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. That policy had disastrous consequences that are still being felt today.

But it is interesting to see someone like Dawkins, obviously with an axe to grind against any religion, take opposite stands on two similar situations. Once again, the atheist seems to feel his own assumptions so self-evident that he finds no need to justify them.

Take Care,

Monday, 14 May 2007

1967 Camaro


This is not a car I used to own, but a freind of mine, Craig, did. His was burgundy in colour. Why am I writing about it? Why, especially, am I writing two posts in a row on collector cars? Well, there is a fascinating coincidence I will tell you about a little later. But first I must issue a disclaimer that I do not, nor cannot, endorse the actions described in this post, and urge my reader(s) not to participate in such antics themselves.

1967 was the first year for the Camaro and Craig got one of the first available. He was good friends with someone in the business, "Red" Dickson. Red is long gone, but amazingly, Dickson Motor Sales is still there in Hamilton, Ontario. Craig's car had the 327 c.i. 4bbl engine and a 4-speed transmission, which made it quite a fast car indeed. The first Camaro's came with a single rear leaf spring and Craig broke so many of them that, with Red Dickson's help I'm sure, GM supplied and installed a set of traction bars under warranty. There was no more trouble after that, but it sure made the car faster off the line.

One day, as I recall, we were travelling along the 401 highway in north Toronto. The 401 is (and was even then) about 8 lanes in each direction; 4 'through' lanes and 4 'collector' lanes. We were in the through lanes, we were young, foolish, and up for any challenge. Opposite us, in the collector lanes was a plain white Dodge Coronet sedan, travelling about the same speed as we were. Craig would give his Camaro a little gas to accelerate, the Dodge would do the same. Before long it was foot-to-the-floor up to well over a hundred miles an hour. The Dodge had no trouble keeping right up. I must say, we were impressed. After a while of this back and forth we both slowed down to somewhere near the speed limit. Shortly, when the Dodge merged into the through lanes, we came up beside it and there on the front fender was the magic logo, "HEMI". We each waved to the other, tipping the hat to a fellow competitor, so to speak. Then the Dodge driver put his foot to the floor and left us in the dust.

Fast forward to 2007. I was watching the highlights of the Barrett-Jackson auction the other night and I saw a 1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi four door go across the block. It sold for $600,000. According to the Barrett-Jackson site this Coronet 4-door sedan was the rarest Hemi ever produced. There were only 5 of these cars made and only one was sold in Canada. I was immediately reminded of that day on the 401 and can't help wondering if that car we encountered that day was the one and only one in Canada.

If so, I feel somehow honoured to have had it cross my path.

Take Care

Sunday, 13 May 2007

1966 Barracuda

Another car I used to own. This is a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda. I bought mine when it was about a year old from a dealer in North Toronto. He also had a 1967 Austin Healey 3000 that I liked, for about the same money, but I chose the 'Cuda. Mine was a Formula 'S' with the 273 4bbl power-pack engine and 4-speed transmission. There is an excellent site here that gives a lot of information on the history of the 'Cuda, for anyone who cares.

The performance times seem pretty tame now, but I'm sure a friend of mine who had the same car was able to run the quarter-mile in under 15 seconds. The only performance improvements he did were to pour a quart of transmission fluid in the crankcase so it would rev quicker and put heavier weights in the distributor to speed up the timing advance. In this second respect he was about a generation ahead of his time because nowadays they do exactly the same thing on newer cars by replacing the computer chip.

I slid the car sideways off a wet corner into a power pole the first week I had it. It was pretty traumatic but my girlfriend (now my wife) says the incident was the first time she realized she cared for me, so perhaps it was one of those Romans 8:28 things.

A few days after the accident I passed by and saw a crew of three township workers and a post-hole digging truck replacing the pole I had broken. In about a week I got a bill in the mail for the total damages - $18.00!

After we moved to Alberta I actually bought another '66 'Cuda, this one a red automatic. We had children by then and I remember going to the drive-in (remember those!) and letting the kids sleep in sleeping bags in the back. (With the back seat folded down there was 7 feet of flat space there)

It is another car I'd love to have again, but my garage isn't big enough to hold all the cars I wish I had. I must confess that collector cars are my greatest temptation when it comes to the Tenth Commandment.

Take Care

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Reason Prefigures Reality - Thoughts on Ancient Greek Philosophy

In a song written by Neil Diamond, the writer begins by listing a number of historical and modern figures, and then declaring, “...they have all sweated under the same sun; looked up in wonder at the same moon... and wept when it was all done, for being done too soon...”

Although the history of western philosophy begins with Greeks of the sixth century BC, one can well imagine even earlier generations gazing skyward at the vast expanse of space and wondering, “What’s it all about? Where do we come from? Why are we here?” Yet, imagine as we may, we really don’t know what those earlier ancestors might have believed, because what they did think, they didn’t record.

G.K.Chesterton, in his excellent book, “The Everlasting Man” says,

“But the truth is that the curtain rises upon the play already in progress... ...it is a history we do not know.” It may well have been “... exceedingly like the history we do know, except in the one detail that we do not know it.”

It is the Greeks, however, who first seem to have turned philosophy into a systematic field of study, and they are the first philosophers of record. In those early days, philosophy, science and even what would today be categorized as theology were all one, with no clear lines of distinction drawn between particular areas of thought.

The earliest of these philosophers are known as “pre-Socratics,” for the simple and obvious reason that they lived before Socrates. They tended to concern themselves with matters of the soul and the nature of the cosmos. In general, each of these philosophers worshiped the gods of their society; the gods of their culture; the gods of ancient Greek mythology. Until, that is, Xenophanes of Colophon.

Xenophanes came, through a process of reason, to the opinion that there was one great God, who was not physical but was all mind, moving all things by the force of his spirit without himself having to move (since mind was not physical, it couldn't move). Xenophanes detested the religion of the time, maintaining that the gods of the day were mere human inventions, with the human weakness and vices of theft, adultery and other shameful behaviours. People had anthropomorphically created the gods in their own image. Ethiopians viewed their gods as dark-skinned and with pug noses, he said, and if animals could draw, they too would no doubt give their gods shapes similar to their own.

After Xenophanes questioned and disproved earlier theological ideas, he stated his own beliefs. Xenophanes submitted that there is only a single non-anthropomorphic deity. This omniscient God bore no resemblance to any man in body or in thought and remained motionless in one place at all times. His third point was that man could never know the complete truth about this God because of the limitations of human knowledge. Xenophanes was "scientific" in that he questioned the old beliefs of anthropomorphic Gods and presented his own beliefs by using scientific inquiry in a search for truth, a hypothesis, and observation. His contribution was instrumental in breaking down old beliefs and establishing a new more "scientific" method of logical thinking. In an age and in a society of polytheism, Xenophanes’ thinking was fairly close to outright monotheism.

This idea of one God, the most powerful of all things, sharing power with no other, was not a new idea. Over a millennium previously, the God of Israel had revealed himself to Abram. There is a striking similarity in the way in which God is said to have made Himself known to both Abram and Xenophanes. Aristotle says that Xenophanes declared there was one God after gazing at the whole sky. “He simply looked up at the whole heaven and said the one existed and was God.” In the book of Genesis, we see the account of Abram’s experience. God took Abram outside and said, “‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’” Then, “Abram believed the LORD…” (Gen 15:5a,6). Could it be that Xenophanes was influenced by the majesty of the heavens in a similar way to Abram, even though Xenophanes did finally arrive at, or at least confirm his conclusion of one God, apparently, through a process of reason? As the psalmist tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) One might well wonder, as much as Xenophanes reasoned his way to his monotheistic position, what part revelation may have played in the process.

Interestingly, Xenophanes probably lived in Colophon when it was captured by the Persian Empire under king Cyrus, around 546 BC. This is the same Cyrus who gave the proclamation allowing the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple: “... may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel...” (Ezra 1:3b) Again, one may wonder if, having been influenced by the strict monotheism of the Jews, the Persians might have carried some communication of monotheistic thought to Greece in their invasion.

We have no real evidence, however, that Xenophanes arrived at his monotheism by any other method than a process of reason and logic. In this, he anticipates later thinkers; Aquinas, for instance, who claim that the existence of God can indeed be proven by reason alone. In any case, it is interesting to think of the idea of one Supreme God making Himself known to mankind through either (or both) reason and revelation.

Another case of reason and logical thinking arriving at a later-to-be-verified conclusion, this time a scientific one, is the example of Democratus. Democratus reasoned that if one began to divide portions of matter, and divided each succeeding piece in turn, eventually one would reach a point where what was left could no longer be divided. He reasoned that if one could continue dividing particles to infinity, each resulting portion must have physicality. If not, one would eventually reach something that occupied no space at all, and that would be impossible, because if one then reassembled particles that occupied no space, no matter how many one combined, the result would still occupy no space. It was the mathematical concept of zero times infinity still equals zero, so to speak. The basis of all matter, he reasoned, must therefore be made up of tiny particles which themselves were indivisible. Democratus called these smallest of all particles, “atoms,” Greek for, “indivisible.” His theory of particles may seem simplistic to us today, but they were arrived at by pure reason alone. There were no scientific experiments to observe, yet centuries later, science was to prove them remarkably visionary.

These examples, in my opinion, demonstrate the remarkable ability of the human mind to seek and approach the truth merely through its own processes alone, and that is to be expected. For if there is such a thing as truth in any area of existence, then we might realistically expect it may be known. In any case it will definitely be pursued. And if it is diligently sought, chances are it will be discovered. If it can be discovered, and if it is indeed the truth, it will, sooner or later, be confirmed. Along with this, if it is truth, then by definition it ultimately cannot, nor will it, be proven wrong. The monotheism of Xenophanes and the atomism of Democratus are wonderful examples of the marvellous workings of the human mind and its ability to discern reality through the evidence of Creation around us.

Ultimately, though, reason by itself cannot bring us to a knowledge of God sufficient for our salvation. That knowledge must come through God’s own revelation, by His grace, and through trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Reason is a wonderful thing, a gift indeed of God. But reason must not become a god itself. There is a danger that it can, because human intellect itself can make it so.

Take Care

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Dawkins Again

On page 13/14 of his book, Dawkins quotes Julian Baggini,
“What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff come minds, beauty, emotions, moral values – in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.”

It is interesting what we see here. Dawkins quotes someone else’s opinion so he can express what is essentially his opinion but without having to defend it as such. The author of the quote itself, in turn, glibly makes a statement that he would like us to accept as fact but in reality is only the opinion of the impersonal, “what atheists believe”, thereby avoiding the accountability of having it blamed on himself and having to defend the obvious illogic of it. This chain of vacuous thoughts, this intellectual shell game, somehow attempts to transform opinion into fact without the reader noticing that he’s just been had.

And speaking of illogicality, look at what it says. It names a number of non-physical things as actual entities; minds, beauty, emotions, moral values; then says these things arise, somehow, out of some universal kind of, “stuff”. In other words, out of physical things come non-physical things. This is just the reverse of the theist’s view of the universe where at the command of a non-physical entity, God, came physical stuff; a view atheists cannot accept. But in reality, does it make any more sense for non-material things to come from the material “stuff” than the other way around? How, for instance, can rational thought and the ability to make conscious decisions come from purely material, “stuff”? (See another discussion of mine, Here) Again, the atheist demonstrates his ability to see only one side of the issue.

Dawkins then says,
“If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural.” (p14, emphasis mine, JK)

Well, of course he hopes to find a natural explanation! His worldview cannot allow him otherwise. But this kind of blind faith that natural explanations will be found for anything and everything unexplained today is akin to what the atheist condemns in those who say, “God did it”. “Someday we’ll know” is the atheist equivalent to “God did it.” Instead of the “God of the gaps,” they just set the gaps aside, in faith that they will someday be filled with answers agreeable to them, all the while ignoring or rejecting any explanation that is not.

Take Care

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Cameron & Comfort vs the Atheists

I’m watching the “debate” between Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort on the one side and the “radical atheists” on the other, trying to set down my thoughts as I listen. These are impressions hastily conceived, but I feel compelled to comment.

Comfort gave the first statement and actually started off fairly strongly. However, they went nowhere but downhill from there. The hype before the debate was that Comfort and Cameron would prove God’s existence “scientifically” without using the Bible. However, in his very second point he used the Ten Commandments and used almost nothing but the Bible for the rest of his argument. I thought this was fairly blatant false witness and not a good example to present to unbelievers.

Cameron’s time was spent basically just giving his personal testimony and urging people to seek God for themselves.

In the section where the show’s host puts questions to Cameron and Comfort, they appeared particularly lame.

After the atheist Brian Sapient brought up the 'third law of thermodynamics' (matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed)in answer to Comfort's statement that God is infinite and outside time(itself an answer to the atheists question, "Who created God?", and hardly a 'scientific' answer at that, by the way), the show's host asked if either Cameron or Comfort wanted to respond. they both stammered awkwardly, shuffled in their chairs and muttered, "No, I think people can figure it out"(!) Cameron eventually made the point that something must be infinite, but in response to the atheists’ claim that perhaps the universe is infinite, Cameron just stammered, “We believe…” No argument, no reasoning. Just, “We believe…”

Now, I’m not saying the atheist side did any better. Most of their points were easily answered. (The woman Kelly just came across as shrill and strident and not having thought things through at all). The atheists’ arguments were there to be refuted. It’s just that in my opinion neither Comfort nor Cameron did it.

What Cameron and Comfort did, to a certain extent, may have been an attempt at evangelism. But it was far from effective apologetics, and far from the "scientific proof" they promised.

Take Care

Monday, 7 May 2007

Psalm 32:6 (Almost Back to Normal)

I have been off my computer for a few days. That is because my basement flooded. (Well, not exactly flooded, but the entire carpet got soaked, though, from leaking water). We had to rip out all the carpet and underlay.

Last night we studied Psalm 32 in our evening service. Verse 6, I thought, was especially appropos.

"Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him."

Thankfully, we were able to stop the leak in time to avoid further damage. We still don't know if insurance will cover it. I am still surrounded by noisy air movers and dehumidifiers even as I write this, but I hope to be back to regular blogging before too long. Dawkins still calls.

Take Care,

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The God Delusion – In The Beginning

Dawkins begins his first chapter with the contrast between two boys, both contemplating the wonders of the world and the universe. One boy became a person of faith, a priest and a teacher in Dawkins' boyhood school. The other boy was himself, who obviously rejected spiritual things and became an atheist. He wonders why the same emotion would have led them both in opposite directions. The implication is that each one had a choice. But of course, as I argued Here he must, to be consistent with his atheist thinking, admit that neither person did. If all thought and emotion is simply a product of electrons following patterns in our brains according to completely natural processes, every decision was made for each of us by the chain of action and reaction that began when the first molecules of matter came into being at the beginning of the universe. How can any of us choose to control along which paths within our brains these electrons flow, along one rather than another, especially when even the thought process by which we would direct them is itself governed by merely random movements of electrons dictated not by our will, but by natural and immutable laws of physics.

He then acknowledges that, “A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists” (p.11). This is nothing more than a reinforcement of the Chesterton quote at the top of my blog. It must surely be a consciously forced decision on the part of any person struck by the wonder of creation to reject the idea of God. We Christians believe, of course, that this natural first response of belief in God has been planted within us by God Himself.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

Speaking, then, of scripture, Dawkins makes the grand assumption that his chaplain, had he read Darwin’s The Origin of Species, might surely have seen the sense in agreeing with it and turned in the direction of atheism. On the second page of chapter 1, (page 12 of the book) he quotes a passage from Darwin with all the reverence that a Christian might quote from the Bible, apparently expecting his readers as well to be caught up in the same rapturous ecstasy that he obviously feels when he reads it.

And he quotes Carl Sagan,

“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science (!) and concluded,
‘...The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god and I want him to stay that way.’ (emphasis and exclamation point mine, JK)…”


I think it is telling that Sagan (and I assume Dawkins agrees, elst why would he use the quote) indicate that it is “science” that should be the source of our wonder, rather than the universe itself. They have taken idolatry beyond the worship of created things to a reverence for a field of thought. They venerate, not God, not even creation, as most pagans do, but intellect, and set man's mind above man’s Creator. Is this not revisiting the sin of the garden?

Returning to Sagan’s quote, I don’t know what “major religion” to which he is referring, but he certainly didn’t consider Christianity. There is no way we consider our God to be a little god. There is no way we diminish the size, wonder or significance of the universe. In fact, early science emerged from believers’ wonder at the universe and their desire to see how God put it all together.

Sagan, and by quoting him, Dawkins, are attacking a religion of their own imagining. They are condemning a Christianity that doesn’t exist, if it is to be a true Christianity.

This covers the first two pages of the first chapter of the book. Right from the beginning Dawkins misses the point. Right from the start he demonstrates that he just doesn’t get it. More to come in due time.

Take Care