Is Christianity a Religion?

Several weeks ago, I asked the question, “Is Atheism a Religion?” My conclusion was that “Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Today I will tackle the question of whether Christianity is a religion. It is my contention that there are, in fact, two distinct forms of Christianity: one form that is a religion, not different from any other religion, and another that is much more than just a religion.

What is religion?

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to first define exactly what religion is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1 a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

In my discussion of Atheism, I identified 8 common traits of religions:

  1. Religions have narratives or texts.
  2. Religions have doctrines.
  3. Religions have faith.
  4. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning.
  5. Religions have rituals.
  6. Religions use symbols.
  7. Religion provides social construct.
  8. Religions proselytize.

Religion is both a set of beliefs about God and a set of practices based on those beliefs. The more religious a person is, the more fervently the set of beliefs and practices is followed.

Two kinds of Christianity

Here we come to the crux of the question: Is Christianity a religion, or is it something more?

I contend that there are, in fact, two distinct kinds of Christianity. There is a form of Christianity that is clearly religion. Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Fundamentalism are all religions. They are all sets of beliefs with accompanying behaviors and practices. Even Christians who are not a part of any organized church or denomination ultimately have a religion. They have a personal set of beliefs and practices.

There is another form of Christianity, however, that goes far beyond the definition of a religion. Consider this passage from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Verse 27 emphasizes the relationship between Jesus and His followers:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

This goes beyond simply knowing about Jesus; a true follower of Jesus Christ actually knows Him.

I know a lot about the President of the United States. I see him on television and in my Facebook newsfeed nearly every day. I know what he says, and who he is. However, I cannot say I know him. We’ve never even met in person, and even if we had, he wouldn’t remember me from any of the hundreds of thousands of other people he’s met. Compare that to the relationship I have with my wife and kids. I live with them, and I talk with them regularly. I actually know them quite well, and they know me quite well. We have individual, close connections .

So it is with those who truly follow Jesus. We don’t just know about Jesus, we know Him personally. He knows us personally. We don’t just follow a religion; we follow a person that we have actually met, with whom we have a personal relationship.

Consider also these verses from Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Notice that it isn’t the religious people that enter heaven – it’s those who do the will of the Father and whom Jesus knows. What is the “will of the Father?” In the context of the passage, it’s certainly not being religious. Jesus repeatedly saves his harshest criticism for the most religious people in His culture. The will of God is that people would know Him.

How are the two kinds of Christianity different from each other?

Let me give my answer from personal experience. I grew up as a religious Christian. I was in a church service nearly every Sunday. My entire family was active in the church; my dad sang in the choir, and my mom was the Sunday KnowtheAuthorSchool Superintendent. I was active in the youth group – president, my senior year – and went to church camp every summer. I knew a lot about the Bible, God, and Jesus. I participated in fundraisers to help the poor, vacation Bible school, and Bible study classes. Although I knew I did some bad things, I believed my goodness outweighed the bad. I believed, God is love; he accepts us as we are, warts and all.

However, as a college freshman, I realized that this wasn’t enough. Although I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t know Jesus. And, though I was mostly a good person, I still sinned, and sin separates us from God – it prevents us from knowing Him. I discovered that God is not only a God of love, He is also the God of holiness, justice, and truth. It was then that I changed from the first kind of religious Christianity to the second kind – relationship Christianity. I repented of my sin, and from trying to earn my way to Heaven. I acknowledged that Jesus is God; that He died for my sin, and rose again. And I committed my life to follow Him. God then did an amazing thing. He forgave my sin, and He restored my relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit tool up residence in my heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). I now not only knew about Jesus – I actually came to know Him in a personal way.

This is the difference between the two kinds of Christianity: The first is a religion, no different from any other religion. It has a holy book, doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, like any other religion. Religious Christianity provides social construct and purpose and meaning, as do all religions. Faithful religious Christians proselytize, as do the faithful from all other religions. And, like all other religions, religious Christianity does nothing to restore the relationship with God that has been lost because of human sin. It acknowledges that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross, but does nothing to activate that forgiveness in anyone’s life. It’s sort of like starving to death while looking at a table full of food. Food does no good, unless one actually ingests it. That’s what relationship Christianity is all about: ingesting and applying the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, and beginning a relationship with Him. Yes, those who have a relationship with Jesus also have the Bible, doctrine, and faith. Yes, our relationship with Jesus is the source of our social construct, purpose, and meaning. We proselytize, and although for many of us, rituals and symbols aren’t especially important, we still have them. The key difference is that these things aren’t the foundation – our relationship with Jesus is the foundation.

RelationshipnotreligionIs Christianity a religion? It depends on which kind of Christianity being discussed. It has been claimed that, “Christianity isn’t a religion – it’s a relationship.” I only partially agree with this. A better way of stating this would be, “True Christianity isn’t just a religion – it’s a relationship.” Much of what people know as Christianity is a religion, and is ultimately no different from any other religion. It makes people feel good, and act a certain way, but cannot restore a relationship with God. The other kind of Christianity is a relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus Christ. This second kind of Christianity still has most of the marks of religion, but is much, much more than just a religion. Religious Christianity is based on trying to make one’s self acceptable to God, which cannot be done, and ultimately leads to death and Hell. Relationship Christianity is based on what Jesus did, not what we do. We become acceptable before God because Jesus took our sin on Himself. Relationship Christianity restores our connection with our Creator, and leads to eternal life, not Hell.

Application

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference in the world! If you are a religious Christian – you have the doctrine, faith, rituals, and symbols, etc., but you don’t know Jesus personally – your sins are not forgiven, and you have not had your relationship with God restored. You are headed for Hell. You need to repent of your religiosity, acknowledge that you cannot make yourself acceptable to God, and receive forgiveness and restoration through Jesus Christ. Head knowledge is not the same as a relationship. Religion makes people feel good, but leads to Hell. Stop having faith in religion, and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you profess another religion, or no religion at all, you also need Jesus. You may have a wonderful life, but in the end, you will spend eternity separated from God in Hell, unless you turn to Jesus.

jesus_talkingIf you know Jesus already, you probably already understand this distinction. Make sure you keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus, not on all the religious stuff that accompanies faith in Jesus. Sure, the “religious” stuff, like reading your Bible, trying to do what is right, giving to the poor, and regularly attending corporate worship are important, they are no substitute for developing your relationship with Jesus. When you share your faith in Jesus with others, they will often think Christianity is no different from any other religion. In a sense, they are right – most of what they have seen is the religious Christianity, not relationship Christianity. Make the distinction between Christianity the religion and Christianity the relationship. Both exist, but only one leads to eternal life.

One final thought: the two kinds of Christianity are usually mixed together in any given church or denomination. That is, in most solid, Bible-believing churches, there are some that don’t actually know Jesus, along with those that do. There are also Christians who truly know Jesus in some very religious churches. Knowing Jesus isn’t a matter of whether one belongs to the right or wrong denomination or church.

If you want to know more about knowing Jesus, leave a comment, or send me a message. I’d love to tell you more.

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Is Atheism a Religion?

Atheists will usually argue that atheism is not a religion, but rather is the lack of a religion. The American Atheists website states:

“Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a no-godlack of belief in gods… Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. Two commonly used retorts to the nonsense that atheism is a religion are: 1) If atheism is a religion then bald is a hair color, and 2) If atheism is a religion then health is a disease.“

Is Atheism a religion? It depends entirely on how one defines the terms “religion” and “Atheism.”

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is:

1             a :  the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion>

b (1) :  the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) :  commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 :  a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic :  scrupulous conformity :  conscientiousness

4 :  a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Similarly, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Atheism as:

1 archaic :  ungodliness, wickedness

2             a :  a disbelief in the existence of deity

b :  the doctrine that there is no deity

According to the dictionary definitions, Atheism is not a religion. Atheism, strictly speaking, is simply not believing any deity exists. This does not qualify as a religion or a belief system. However, by this sort of strict definition, theism also is not a religion – it is simply the “belief in the existence of a god or gods” (Merriam-Webster). Neither are pantheism or polytheism. No isolated belief is a religion. They are simply isolated beliefs.

Beliefs – or lack thereof – do not exist in isolation

The problem with this reasoning is that, in actual practice, beliefs do not exist in isolation. All of a person’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and practices are interrelated. The human mind hates contradiction. If a person does not believe in any deity, then other views held by that person must be consistent with this view. For example, Atheists almost universally hold to naturalism – the philosophical viewpoint in which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and all supernatural explanations are excluded or discounted. Almost all Atheists hold to the Big Bang and naturalistic evolution, because virtually any other belief regarding origins requires some sort of deity. Another almost unanimously held belief among Atheists is that science is the basis for correct attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Most hold to some sort of secular humanism – which is defined by the Council for Secular Humanism as a comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating a naturalistic philosophy, a cosmic outlook rooted in science, and a consequentialist ethical system.

Why are these beliefs nearly universally held by Atheists? Because almost any other combination of beliefs would contradict the notion that gods do not exist, and the human mind is wired to reject contradiction. In order to maintain a lack of belief in gods, any other philosophical or religious idea that requires or implies the existence of any deity must be rejected. This severely limits the Atheist’s philosophical options.

I find it ironic that Atheists frequently refer to themselves as “freethinkers.” According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a freethinker is:

“A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”

Why is this ironic? Because in the process of trying to free themselves of gods and faith, they severely limit their options. They are not free to even think God might exist. Rather than being free to think, Atheists become slaves to their limited thinking. Conformity to non-belief is demanded.

Atheistic worldviews are religious

I would agree with Atheists in their insistence that Atheism per se is not a religion. However, Atheism is always part of a larger worldview that is ultimately religious – despite emphatic protests and arguments to the contrary.

Religious worldviews have a number of common characteristics. Although the following is not a definitive list of these characteristics, it serves to show how most Atheism-based worldviews are also religious.

  1. Religions have narratives. Christians have the Bible, Muslims have the Quran, and Mormons have the Book of Mormon. DarwinFishSimilarly, Atheists have a number of narratives, including the evolution and Big Bang stories. As Atheist Richard Dawkins once said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” The story of everything coming into existence from a singularity, life mysteriously appearing from non-living matter, and evolving into present day forms, is the Atheist’s narrative. Many Atheists hold to the Humanist Manifesto as a sort of sacred text, along with Origin of Species and other writings.
  2. Religions have doctrine. Christians have many doctrines, including the Trinity, the virgin birth, the dual nature of Christ, and so forth. Other religions have their doctrine as well. The central doctrine of Atheism is that no deities exist. Atheists derive other doctrine from this central tenet, including:
  • Faith must be rejected
  • Science is the only way of knowing
  • Science is the opposite of religion
  • Life evolved
  • Mankind is part of nature
  • Matter and energy are all that exist
  • The universe has no ultimate purpose
  • Ethical values are derived from human need

Although not all atheists hold to all of these doctrines, any more than all Christians hold to all Christian doctrine, they serve to show that atheists are religious in that they have doctrine.

  1. Religions have faith. Despite vehement protests to the contrary, atheists have faith. The central doctrine of the non-existence of deity cannot be proved, any more than the non-existence of anything else – the view that gods do not exist must be held by faith. Atheists typically define faith as “blindly believing the impossible,” which is exactly what they must do if they believe that that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology were once violated and life arose from non-life via chemical evolution. Nearly all Atheist doctrines are a matter of belief and faith, rather than anything that can be taken into a lab and proved experimentally.
  2. Religion is a source of purpose and meaning. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of all other religions get their meaning and purpose for life primarily from their religious beliefs. Atheists are much the same. From the Humanist Manifesto III:

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.
Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

  1. Religions have rituals. From communion and baptism in Christianity, to circumcision and Passover in Judaism, to meditation in eastern religions, all religions have rituals. On the surface, atheism would seem to lack rituals, but a few exist. Because modern Atheism is a relatively recent movement, it does not have much of a history to commemorate. However, many atheists celebrate Darwin Day or the winter solstice. An increasing number of Atheist “churches” have been formed in recent years, complete with music and preaching. Although rituals are largely absent from Atheist practices, they are not completely absent.
  2. Religions use symbols. Christians have the cross; Jews have the Menorah; MuFSMslims have the Star and Crescent. Atheists have the “Darwin fish,” the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” the unicorn, and several logos incorporating the letter A.
  3. Religion provides social construct. Christians have congregations and churches. Hindus have a caste system. Atheism also provides social construct. Communist countries have frequently made Atheism the state religion, often to the point of persecuting other religions. From the Humanist Manifesto III:

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.
Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

  1. Religions proselytize. Christians send out evangelists and missionaries. Muslims convert people under threat of violence. American AtheistsAtheists also proselytize. Modern Atheism has been driven predominantly by Atheist authors promoting their beliefs. In the preface to The God Delusion, Atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” The American Humanist Association spent thousands of dollars to place ads on buses in Washington, D.C., asking, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation has had billboards across the country promoting Atheism. A simple good search shows thousands of websites, blogs, and social media pages – all proselytizing for Atheism.

Conclusions

Atheism is not a religion, per se, but almost all Atheists practice a non-theistic kind of religion. Atheist religion is generally not an institutionalized system or organization, but usually more of a personal set of non-theistic religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. In the discussions I have personally had with Atheists, many defend their system of beliefs with as much ardor and faith as any Christian evangelist.

The statement, “Atheism is a religion,” is technically incorrect. A better way of stating this would be to say, “Atheists are almost always religious,” or “Atheism is the core doctrine of the religion of Secular Humanism.”

Thoughts about the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams Over the last week, the evening news and social media have been filled with the sad details of the suicide of comedian Robin Williams. Williams, who had struggled with depression and substance abuse for years, hanged himself, and was found dead on August 11.

Social media has exploded with commentary on Williams’ life and death. Opinions have run the full gamut. Many of the comments blame his death on mental illness. Others call him a coward for killing himself.

What I’ve found interesting is the comments from self-proclaimed Christians.

Here is a sampling I gleaned from the Facebook page of a well-known Christian band:

Lisa B. wrote,

As a Christian myself I take great comfort knowing that Robin Williams is indeed in Heaven. He brought laughter, support and happiness to so many and now is his time to escape his hell of depression and live with The Lord. Any other Christians that would claim otherwise should be ashamed of themselves and take another good look at their lives. What makes them better than Robin Williams? That answer would be, absolutely nothing. Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thanks for the joy you brought to my life.

Donovan E, wrote,

As a Christian, I have always been offended by this notion that someone goes to Hell for this or for that. If that is the case, we are all in trouble. It makes no sense to me for God to create us, just to destroy us in the after life. God is compassionate, and none of us are without some sort of sin, even on our death bed. Those like Robin with depression issues that they cannot overcome on this Earth, surely is at peace in the kingdom. Just my perspective.

Both Lisa and Donovan seem to be missing the entire point of the Gospel. It has nothing to do with being “better than” others, as Lisa suggests. Donovan was partially correct: none of us is without some sort of sin, and we are all in trouble. What both seem to be missing is the fact that God, being infinitely just, cannot simply overlook our sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God – hell. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself, fulfilling the righteous judgment of God. Nothing we do can make us “good enough.” It is only through Jesus Christ that forgiveness can be obtained. The only thing we can do is to receive Christ as Savior. If we accept Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we go to hell.

Robin Williams was well known for giving to a great number of good causes, often anonymously. He was, in human terms, a “good person.” However, in God’s terms, he was a sinner, as we all are. No amount of giving or good deeds can pay for our sin or get us into Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Unless Robin Williams repented of his sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior, he is in Hell. While I don’t claim to know what God might have done in Williams’ heart during his last days on earth, there is absolutely nothing to indicate he ever was saved. Williams sometimes openly mocked Jesus Christ and the Bible in his comedy routines. And, while I do think deathbed conversions can be genuine, it seems extremely unlikely that a person can become truly saved – and then immediately kill himself.

Bradley T. wrote,

It is such a tragedy that there are so called “Christians” that seem happy about declaring that Robin Williams went to hell. I am a follower of Christ, I know that I did not know the state of mind of Robin Williams, and knowing Jesus does not mean that you cannot still suffer from severe depression. In the end what matters is what was in his heart those last few minutes of his life. I pray for his family that God will give them peace and comfort during this time.

Melissa H. wrote,

What kind of Christian would take pleasure in someone’s eternal damnation?????? I pray that Robin found his peace deep in the arms of the Saviour…… SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE THAT PROCLAIM CHRIST AND WISH HELL ON ANYONE!!!!!!

One of the disturbing trends I’ve seen is a small minority of self-proclaimed Christians who seem to take pleasure from the fact that Robin Williams is most likely suffering in Hell. I’ve seen posts commenting that he “deserved” to be in Hell because he mocked God – implying that while Williams deserved Hell, the writer did not. It grieves me that Williams is, in all likelihood, in Hell. It grieves me that most people reject Jesus Christ and go to Hell. It grieves me that, because of my sin, I deserve Hell. I just thank God that, through His grace and mercy, He reached me with the truth of His forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and I received Jesus as Savior. It’s not because I’m better than anyone else, or that God loves me more; it’s because I responded to God’s offer of salvation, which He freely extends to all, yet most reject.

It’s a sick person who wishes for anyone to go to Hell.

robin-williams-God-Laugh

I saw a comment somewhere to the effect that Robin Williams is in Heaven, making God laugh. In all probability, Williams is not in Heaven. God is not laughing; He is weeping. Satan is the one who is laughing.

Michael M. wrote,

Don’t know if that would be technically correct or not; I have seen a couple of recent interviews where he referenced being thankful for “a loving God”. Perhaps he had found some level of connection…according to his level of understanding. I sure hope so. In any case, this sort of ‘speaking ill of the dead’…to the detriment of friends and family…is NOT a ‘Christian’ thing to do. If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut.

The answer is not being thankful for “a loving God,” nor in finding “some level of connection…according to his level of understanding.” The answer is repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Savior. The apostle Paul put it this way:

…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Belief is not simply an intellectual understanding. It involves commitment, repentance, and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. James 2:19 states that “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Demons are condemned to Hell, not because they lack intellectual understanding, but because they reject Jesus Christ. The same is true of people.

speaking-truth-loveOne thing Michael M. wrote that I wholeheartedly agree with: If you cannot “speak the truth IN LOVE”, keep your mouth shut. My fervent prayer is that anyone who reads this and doesn’t already know Jesus Christ as Savior will see this as a wake-up call to seek Jesus Christ, receive Him as Savior, and be saved. While Christians are commanded to preach the Gospel, we are also commanded to do so in love. Sometimes, the truth hurts. It hurts to realize I am a sinner. It hurts to know I deserve Hell. It hurts to discover there’s nothing I can do about it. It hurts to know that, in all likelihood, Robin Williams is in Hell, as will be most of the people I have known or admired. It hurts to know that God had to send His only begotten Son to die in my place. However, I fervently believe it is the truth. And, I love people enough to tell them the truth, not to make myself feel good, but in the hope that others will come to know Jesus Christ. If I didn’t love people, I wouldn’t care if they went to Hell. The most hateful thing I can imagine is to know the truth, and keep it to myself, not caring if others go to Hell, or not. To those who think you’re better than others, or that God loves you more: SHUT UP. You’re fools. Take the log out of your own eye, and quit trying to throw sawdust in the eyes of others.

Lastly, Troy S. wrote,

How about this for a thought! What if the way he died is a fail safe that God has in place for people who just can’t find him, but he still wants him as his own, so this unjust death so it may seem ,just means he is allowed to be with God eternally, but has to go out this way! I just don’t see a loving God giving up on his children so easily.

While I disagree with the notion that suicide is an automatic ticket to Hell, I also disagree with the notion that suicide might be an automatic ticket to Heaven. Neither concept is found in the Bible. The Bible is clear. Salvation is based on whether or not one has repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. Those that receive Christ go to Heaven; those who do not go to Hell.

My hope and prayer is that all of the discussion about the death of Robin Williams will cause some to seek the truth in Jesus Christ and be saved. I pray that other Christians will use Robin Williams’ death as an opening to share the Gospel and lead others to faith in Christ. I also pray that the hate-mongers and self-righteous legalist would just shut up, repent, and seek forgiveness.

Why Use Reason When You Can Just Mock People?

no reason neededI didn’t bother blogging about the recent Ken Ham / Bill Nye debate, because I figured enough other people were already blogging about it. However, I ran across a blog by Ronald Bailey on Reason.com entitled How Really to Debate Creationists: Bill Nye versus Ken Ham that I thought deserved comment.

Bailey begins with the typical argument that Nye shouldn’t have debated Ham, because creationists shouldn’t have a platform to promote their views. Basically, if you can’t beat ’em, shut ’em up. Not exactly a reasoned response.

Bailey continues by stating – or, more accurately, misstating – several creationist concepts, ranging from man and dinosaurs coexisting to fossil formation during Noah’s flood to why the Big Bang doesn’t make sense. Rather than actually giving rational arguments for why he thinks these concepts are wrong, he simply labels them “nonsense.” Ad hominem attacks are not a reasoned argument.

How should an evolutionist deal with creationists? According to Bailey, “there is a way to beat Creationists at their own game – mockery.” He continues:

So don’t try to knock down each individual assertion of mountebanks like Ham during such a “debate,” but instead concentrate on the goal of explaining by entertaining with a bit of mockery thrown in. You will gratify your intellectual friends; annoy your enemies; and perhaps persuade some of the confused to take a deeper look into the scads of evidence for biological evolution.

Bailey links to a video of himself and atheist Michael Shermer debating intelligent designers Stephen Meyer and George Gilder. Bailey uses the “Intelligent Design by Purple Space Squids” argument to mock his opponents’ arguments.

So, according to the website REASON.com, one should not use reason to argue against creation. Bailey then justifies his argument:

My talk clearly did not persaude Meyer and Gilder, but by show of hands Shermer and I did win the debate at Freedomfest.

Since evolutionists cannot win the debate with reason, they should resort to mockery and entertainment. Mockery and entertainment win debates. And apparently, mockery also determines the truth.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. They think their beliefs are based on “reason,” when in fact they are based on logical fallacy and foolishness.

Logical, reasoned arguments will not sway a fool who has set himself in opposition to Jesus Christ. Such people have already made up their minds to reject reason and the truth. However, for those who are truly seeking the truth, logical, reasoned arguments can draw people to the truth of the Gospel.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?

ThinkerA recent article by David Denison looked at the question of why few intellectuals are Christians. He noted that, according to a survey of the National Academy of Scientists, only 7 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God. Denson argues for two primary reasons for this tendency. First, there is a tremendous bias against theism within higher education; and second, the American church culture is unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny.

I would agree with Denson’s assessment on both points, but I would take his conclusions a bit further.

While I would agree that there is strong anti-theist bias in higher education, I believe this merely reinforces the tendencies already present in highly intelligent people. When I talk to intellectuals about Jesus Christ, the common answer I get goes something like this: “I’m too intelligent to believe in God. I used to believe in God, but now I’m much too sophisticated in my thinking for that.” What I hear is pride and arrogance. Almost all of the highly scientific non-believers I talk to have a tendency to place their trust in their intelligence. They see God as a crutch for the unintelligent. Paul addresses such thinking in Romans 1:

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools…

Scientists study the physical world, which they should see as God’s handiwork. However, because many highly intelligent people trust their intelligence above all else, they choose to ignore or explain away the very obvious creative design found in the natural world. Intellectuals really aren’t any different than anyone else. Athletes rely on their athleticism; the wealthy rely on their riches; those in power rely on their position. When a person has a lot going for them, it’s difficult to realize that they need anything other than themselves, and it’s easy to reject the truth.

One of the online responses to Denson’s article demonstrates another reason why many intellectuals reject God. Tianhe Yang commented:

I think the reason why people who seek higher ed, especially in scientific and theoretical fields, tend to be non-religious is simply because logic and the scientific method play such a vital part in how we think. Faith, in almost complete contrast, is, by definition, believing in something without all of the necessary evidence.

First of all, let’s get a common misconception of science out of the way. Science is not about “knowing stuff” – it’s a process of 1. constructing a hypothesis to explore, based on current knowledge, 2. testing that hypothesis and broadcasting the results to the greater community, so that other scientists can 3. try to disprove your results from as many angles as we can think of, until we aren’t able to disprove it, at which point it becomes added to the list of theories that form what we know about the world (which is constantly changing).

An important thing to note is that nothing can be absolutely known, because we don’t know the methods, nor do we have the resources, to test everything completely.

Every atheist I talk to about the Christian faith gives me the same reason for not believing: There is no evidence for the existence of God. The flaw in their thinking is that they believe the only way one can absolutely know anything is through the scientific method. They reject any other kind of evidence. Since God is not observable and testable, they argue, there is no evidence for God’s existence. However, there are many things that people know – or claim to know – that are not subject to the scientific method. For example, scientists know their senses are basically reliable, but there is no way to test this, because if their senses were not reliable, they could not reliably make the observations necessary to test whether their senses are reliable. They presuppose that the universe is real, and not imagined, but this cannot be tested. The scientific process itself cannot be tested and proved by the scientific process – there is no way to test the hypothesis that observing and testing a hypothesis produces truth.

There are many kinds of evidence other than scientific evidence, including historical evidence, testimonial evidence, metaphysical arguments, anecdotal evidence, logical arguments, and others. Most scientific intellectuals that I have talked to reject all of these, except the scientific process. The problem is not that there is no evidence; the problem is that there is no evidence that they will accept. Demanding physical evidence for the existence of God is a category error fallacy. A category error is “a type of informal fallacy where things that belong to one grouping are mistakenly placed in another,” or where “a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property.” If someone says, “My gerbil is a Republican,” they are committing a category error – a gerbil cannot be a Republican. Only people can be Republicans. Gerbils do not belong to the category of things capable of being a Republican. The Biblical God is not a physical Being. He is not part of the natural universe. By definition, God is supernatural (super- “Above; over;” natural “Present in or produced by nature”). God is in a totally different category than the natural universe. When someone demands physical evidence for the existence of a non-physical Being, they are committing a category error fallacy. It would be like demanding DNA evidence for the existence of dark matter, or asking for a beaker full of intelligence.

EinsteinScientists are trained to use the scientific method to test theories. This is absolutely appropriate for gaining knowledge of the physical world. The category error fallacy is in trying to apply the scientific method to non-physical concepts. Because the scientific method plays such a crucial role in how many intellectuals think and work, it’s often difficult for them to think in any other terms.

Is the American church culture unfriendly to intellectual scrutiny? Unfortunately, for the most part, the answer is yes.

Most preachers and church teachers tell their congregations what to believe, but seldom go into any depth as to why any of it makes sense. Most Christians can tell you that Jesus was crucified and died, then rose again, and that if one asks Jesus into their heart, they will be saved; but most cannot adequately explain how they know this is true. They cannot explain fairly simple questions, such as why Jesus is the only way to salvation, or what it means to “ask Jesus into your heart,” much less more difficult questions about the supposed conflicts between science and the Bible, alleged Biblical contradictions, or why God allows pain and suffering.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” The vast majority of American Christians can’t even coherently share the Gospel, much less taking the time to prepare themselves to be able to defend the Gospel or answer the difficult questions that intellectuals ask. Far too many Christians are intellectually lazy. As Denison puts it, “Christ’s call to have a childlike faith has been bastardized to a point that encourages blind acceptance of whatever we happen to have been told.” For intellectuals, blind acceptance is unacceptable. Scientists are rightly taught to think critically. If logical, valid reasons aren’t given for the truth of the Christian faith, most intellectuals will dismiss Christianity as nonsense. Unfortunately, very few Christians are prepared to give a reasoned, logical defense of the Gospel.

FaithReasonEvery person is born a sinner, separated from God. Every human being needs Jesus Christ to be saved from their sin, to have relationship with God restored, and to avoid Hell. While it may be easier for less intelligent people to admit their helplessness to save themselves, God loves scientists and intellectuals just as much. It is imperative that believers prepare themselves to always be ready to give a logical, reasoned defense to everyone who asks about the truth of Jesus Christ. While it is true that the Gospel must be received by faith, faith should not be “blind” faith devoid of any evidence or reason. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This does not mean faith and reason are mutually exclusive; rather, faith is absolutely consistent with evidence and reason, but extends beyond what we can see, test, and logically comprehend based on evidence and reason alone.

Christians are not called to a “blind” faith. We are called to diligently study and allow the Holy Spirit teach us to all truth. We are called to share the truth with all people, including intellectuals and scientists, in a way they can understand and embrace, so that they may know the Truth, and so the Truth might set them free.

The Parable of the Selfish Geneticist

science bibleOnce there was a geneticist who stumbled upon a series of genes responsible for human aging. He also discovered a method to turn those genes off, allowing people to live to fantastic ages of 1,000 years or more. However, being incredibly selfish, he told no one about his discovery; he kept the knowledge and the treatment to himself. Eventually, as others around him aged, yet he remained young, his secret was discovered. The selfish geneticist was condemned by all for his selfishness. They said, “Millions of lives have been needlessly lost, all because this selfish man kept the knowledge of how to prevent aging to himself, rather than telling the world about his fantastic discovery!” The selfish geneticist lived for more than another thousand years, guilt-ridden with the knowledge that he could have saved millions of lives, but didn’t.

A number of people have recently asked why I spend so much time and effort on Facebook and with this blog arguing for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Much like the selfish geneticist, I have discovered the reason people die. It would be selfish of me not to tell others about it.

What I have discovered is not new; I’m certainly not the only person who knows about it. In fact, it’s been known for thousands of years, and millions know about it today. The answer to eternal life isn’t something I figured out on my own through superior insight or intelligence; rather, it’s so simple a child can understand it: The reason all people die is because we all sin. The cure is forgiveness for sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. So simple, yet so profound.

Yet, there are many billions of people who either have never heard, or who refuse to listen. I believe with all my heart that when any person dies without first receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, they are destined for an eternity separated from God in Hell. Sin separates us from God, and there is nothing that any person can do on their own to remove sin from their lives. Only by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ and having sin removed by His death on the cross can anyone avoid Hell.

This is why I am so passionate in my efforts to evangelize. I would be a hypocrite not to.

SpeakTheTruthMany people who read my blog and/or Facebook posts would argue that God does not exist, or that absolute spiritual truth either does not exist or is unknowable. Yet, I know God exists, because I know Him; He lives in me. I know absolute moral and spiritual truth exist, because God has shown them to me. It’s not because there’s anything special about me; God wants everyone to know Him and to know the truth. I argue for the absolute truth of the Bible, not to win an argument, or to try to make myself out as some sort of spiritual genius, but because I want to expose the lies people cling to that prevent them from coming to true faith in Jesus Christ.

God has blessed me with an analytical mind, so I tend to take a very analytical, logical approach to sharing and defending the Gospel. I realize that this approach isn’t for everyone; I often wish I was better at expressing myself in other ways. I’m working on it. But, since God has gifted me the way He has, I will continue to use what He has given me to try to help people understand that He exists, that He loves them, and that there is only one way to be reconciled to Him, through Jesus Christ.

I know why people die. I also know the cure. It’s not a genetic disorder; it’s a spiritual disorder. The cure is Jesus Christ. Of this I am absolutely convinced: Millions have died and continue to die, and will spend eternity apart from God, unless they turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. What kind of horrible monster would I be if I kept this truth to myself?

Rebuttal: “Teachers Back Away From Evolution In Class” by Jesse Emspak

I originally posted this on Facebook in January, 2011; I’ve decided to re-post it here.

Rebuttal

“Teachers Back Away From Evolution In Class” by Jesse Emspak | January 27, 2011

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/105982/20110127/teachers-back-away-from-evolution-in-class.htm

This article is loaded with misinformation and fallacious arguments. It is nothing more than a weak attempt to promote a theory that is rapidly being exposed as illogical, unscientific, and anti-religious.

“Teachers who are unable or unwilling to teach the theory of evolution in biology might be one reason U.S. students are falling behind in science, according to new research.”

Evolution plays absolutely no role in the vast majority of scientific endeavors. For the engineer, chemist, and physicist, evolution is a complete non-issue. Even in the biological sciences, the issue of origins is completely irrelevant to for those doing actual research. The only scientists for whom the origins of life is even an issue is for those who specialize in the study of origins!

“The National research Council recommends that teachers introduce to students the evidence that evolution actually occurred, and use it as a unifying theme in different areas of biology.”

First, the National Research Council (NRC) operates under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a blatantly anti-Christian, anti-religious organization that seeks to use “science” to replace belief in God with belief in secular humanism. Secondly, every evidence used to support evolution has repeatedly been shown to be fallacious and/or just plain false. The NAS seeks to indoctrinate, rather than foster critical thinking of the evidence for and against evolution.

“Teachers may want to avoid controversy, but the problem, Berkman says, is that it undermines science as a mode of thought and means of finding out about the world.”

Most teachers want to teach their students critical thinking skills, but are afraid they will lose their jobs if they even suggest that their students to approach evolution critically. I know – I used to be a public school science teacher.

“Not having biology taught properly, Berkman says, makes it harder for students to understand science later on.”

I agree. Indoctrinating students with evolution, rather than teaching them to evaluate the pros and the cons of the theory, has stunted students’ understanding of science.

“The theory of evolution states that life forms will change over time in response to their environment, and the fraction of individuals in a species with one or more inherited traits will differ. The cause is natural variation within species, which affects how well they survive in a given environment — or not. Sometimes species will split into two or more different ones, and sometimes they will die out.”

This is the fallacy of equivocation. Actually, what is being described is natural selection, not evolution. Evolution is the idea that all modern species descended from a single common ancestor over million of years. Natural selection is observable, measurable, testable science. Common descent is neither observable, nor testable, nor measurable. It is philosophy disguised as science. The fallacy is equating evolution, meaning natural selection or change over time, with evolution, meaning common descent. Same term, two entirely different meanings, and one does not necessarily follow from the other.

“The simplest way to solve this problem is to change the ways people who will become teachers are taught the subject before they ever get into a classroom, Berkman says.”

Indoctrinate the teachers so they can indoctrinate the students.

Some teachers try to present both sides, he notes, but the problem with that is that it puts science in the same class of knowledge as an opinion, as though well-established principles could be debated.

This is the fallacy of begging the question, also known as a circular argument. We cannot question whether evolution is a fact, because evolution is a fact. We cannot debate whether evolutionary principles are well-established, because evolutionary principles are well-established.

Neo-Darwinian evolution is nothing more than an anti-religious philosophy posing as science, held together by smoke and mirrors, and is rapidly being exposed as such. Articles like this only serve as an attempt to shore up public opinion and make people thing they’re stupid if they approach the issue critically and logically rather than simply accepting it blindly. It makes me angry that most people lack the interest, information, and/or the skills to understand that the belief that Mankind came from goo is irrational and just plain stupid. It makes me even angrier that this irrational belief in evolution is one of the key reasons people reject the Bible, and therefore reject Jesus Christ, and therefore spend eternity in Hell.