For centuries there has been conflict and debate between atheists and Christianity. But the rise of what journalists are calling “The New Atheists” represents a significant change in the nature of the debate. “The New Atheists” is part reality and part journalistic catch phrase. It identifies the new players in the ongoing battle between science and religion.
Unlike the atheists who came before them who were content to merely argue that Christianity is not true, these new atheists now argue that Christianity is dangerous. It is one thing to argue about the error of Christianity, it is quite another to argue about the evil of Christianity.
Many of these authors have books in the New York Times bestseller list. Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris is one of those books in the top ten. He goes beyond the traditional argument that suffering in the world proves there is no God. He argues that belief in God actually causes suffering in the world. He says, “That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.” He argues that unless we renounce religious faith, religious violence will soon bring civilization to an end.
Response to his book has been glowing. One reader found the book to be “a wonderful source of ammunition for those who, like me, hold to no religious doctrine.” Others enjoyed the pounding he gives Christianity. For them it “was like sitting ring side, cheering the champion, yelling ‘Yes!’ at every jab.”
But Christians are not the only target of his criticism. Harris also argues that religious moderates and even theological liberals function as “enablers” of orthodox Christianity. His book is not only a criticism of Christians, but it is a call for tolerant people in the middle to get off the fence and join these new atheists.
Another popular book is The God Delusion by Oxford professor Richard Dawkins. He says that religious belief is psychotic and arguments for the existence of God are nonsense. He wants to make respect for belief in God socially unacceptable.
He calls for atheists to identify themselves as such and join together to fight against the delusions of religious faith. He says, “The number of nonreligious people in the US is something nearer to 30 million than 20 million. That’s more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we are in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out.”
Like Harris, Dawkins does not merely disagree with religious faith, but he disagrees with tolerating religious faith. He argues that religious people should not be allowed to teach these religious “myths” to their children, which Dawkins calls the “colonization of the brains of innocent tykes.”
Dawkins hammers home the link between evolution and atheism. He believes that evolutionary theory must logically lead to atheism. And he states that he is not going to worry about the public relations consequences of tying evolution to atheism.
Daniel Dennett is another important figure and author of the book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. He does not use the harsh and critical rhetoric of the others, but still is able to argue his case that religion must be subjected to scientific evaluation. He believes that “neutral, scientifically informed education about every religion in the world should be mandatory in school” since “if you have to hoodwink—or blindfold—your children to ensure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct.”
In addition to the books by “The New Atheists” have been a number of others that have targeted Christian conservatives. David Kuo wrote Tempting Faith to tell conservative Christians that they were taken for a ride by the administration that derided them behind closed doors. Add to this Michael Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and Randall Balmer’s Thy Kingdom Come and Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy. Each put the religious right in their crosshairs and pulled the trigger.
Many of these books border on paranoia. Consider James Rudin’s book, The Baptizing of America. His opening paragraph says, “A specter is haunting America, and it is not socialism and certainly not communism. It is the specter of Americans kneeling in submission to a particular interpretation of a religion that has become an ideology, an all-encompassing way of life. It is the specter of our nation ruled by the extreme Christian right, who would make the United States a ‘Christian nation’ where their version of God’s law supersedes all human law—including the Constitution. That, more than any other force in the world today, is the immediate and profound threat to our republic.”
These comments move from anti-Christian bigotry to anti-Christian paranoia. Please, tell me who these dangerous Christian conservatives are so we can correct them. I interview many of the leaders and do not even hear a hint of this. If anything, these leaders want the judges to follow the Constitution not supercede it with another version (either secular or Christian).
Rudin goes on to argue that these Christian leaders would issue everyone a national ID card giving everyone’s religious beliefs. Again, who are these people he is talking about? Frankly, I have not found anyone that wants a national ID card (either secular or Christian).
Nevertheless, Rudin maintains that “such cards would provide Christocrats with preferential treatment in many areas of life, including home ownership, student loans, employment and education.” And the appointed religious censors would control all speech and outlaw dissent. Do you know we wanted to do that?
Clearly we are moving into a time in which atheists see religion as full of error and evil. And Christian conservatives are especially being singled out because of their belief in the truth of the Bible.
Christians should respond in three ways. First, we must always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) and do it with gentleness and reverence. Second, we should trust in the power of the Gospel: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for all those who believe (Romans 1:16). Third, we should live godly lives before the world so that we may (by our good behavior) silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).
January 18, 2007
Kerby Anderson Commentaries
Written by Probe Ministries Administrator
© 2006 Probe Ministries International
Unfold the Evangel before your eyes!
Are you worn out?
Are you overwhelmed?
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Only rational, non-dogmatic persons can understand and accept this message. Give yourself a try. Nothing will be like before, I promise!
domingo, janeiro 21, 2007
domingo, janeiro 14, 2007
It is difficult to understand the caldron of the Middle East without first studying the remarkable prophecies found in the book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was among the captives with King Jehoiachin in the second of three deportations under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He mentions Daniel three times, who had been in Babylon nine years before Ezekiel arrived. Ezekiel ministered, as did Jeremiah, to a nation experiencing judgment for their sins. In his captivity he lived at the River Chebar, which was the great ship canal branching off from the Euphrates above Babylon and turning through Nippur to the Tigris. This was the primary settlement location of the Jewish captives.
Ezekiel was born in approximately 627 B.C. and lived in a time of moral decline, distress and uprooting. His messages were not well received at first, but did ultimately result in the nation being purged of idolatrous practices. He was married and owned his home. His wife died during his ministry, and he was forbidden to mourn her.
We also learn that God intended his life to be a series of signs to Israel; therefore, he does all kinds of strange things. He shuts himself up in his home. He binds himself. He is struck dumb. In a formal ritual, he was to lie on his right and his left sides for a total of 430 days. He ate bread that was prepared in an unclean manner. He shaved his head and beard, which was considered a shame in his particular calling.
Throughout the book, his main theme was the sovereignty and glory of God. This is good for us, because we can get so focused on God’s grace that we tend to forget there is also a governing role of God, and that His glory requires justice.
Ezekiel was very direct. He carefully vindicated God’s justice throughout the book, although he deals more in symbol and allegory that any other Old Testament prophet. He is probably the greatest mystic of the Old Testament. He was well suited for the calling God gave him, which included a remarkable vision of God's Throne in Chapter 1. This dramatic vision of God never left him. It is not just introduced in the first chapter, it is referenced all the way through.
The Prophet of the Regathering
The famed vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones in Chapters 36 and 37 is unquestionably the monumental Biblical fulfillment of the 20th century. Beginning in the last half of the 19th century, the regathering that climaxed in the establishment of the State of Israel is one of the most irrefutable evidences that we are on threshold of God's climax for the nations mentioned throughout the Bible - and remarkably detailed in the writings of Ezekiel.
The final chapters, 40-48, climax with a remarkably detailed description of the Millennial Temple to be rebuilt. Ezekiel was uniquely qualified for this role due to his priestly background. He was the son of Buzi, who was also a priest. It is interesting that even though he never served as a priest, he apparently so influenced later worship that today he is called by some, "The Father of Judaism." From Numbers 4:3 we know that Kohathites had to be 30 years old before they could begin service as priests. When Ezekiel became 30, however, he was deported, in approximately the eightieth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. The Temple which Ezekiel describes has never yet been built. Most scholars regard it as the details for the Temple which will be established during the Millennium on Planet Earth.
Between the regathering of the nation in Chapters 36 and 37, and the Millennium Temple described in Chapters 40-48, there is a climactic event that intervenes. The invasion of Gog and Magog, described in Chapters 38 and 39, are among the most famous prophetic passages in the Bible. For a variety of reasons, the identity of "Magog" as the people of Russia seems well established.
Have you ever studied this incredible book carefully? See our Expositional Commentary on Ezekiel, click on the link below to learn more.
from the January 09, 2007 eNews issue
quarta-feira, janeiro 10, 2007
I have expressed several times that the theme of Esotropiart is that life is a process. There's a whole lot to life, it's full of changes: ups and downs. It's not all pretty, no matter what your background or perspective is. I am a very imperfect follower of Christ; my life and character are full of gaping holes. Being a Christian will not make life easier, nor will it spare a person from sorrow, trials or stress. My goal is not to be considered religious, but rather to have it communicated that my life is a pursuit of a relationship with Jesus. I know that most of the time I fail miserably even at that, but is what I desire. That is truly what Christianity is all about and why it differs so starkly with all other "religions" or "faiths" out there. It might sound trite and repetitious to some, but Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Christianity without the relationship aspect (more than an aspect - it's all or nothing) is surely just another stack of rules, sayings and traditions to throw on the endless heap... and I would agree with those who have encountered this sort and say it has nothing to "offer", so to speak.
While I'm not that consistent in supporting my theme, I try to write from time to time about bits of my life that I feel might reveal a bit of the journey that I am going through. Right now my church is experiencing a very important "crossroads" in our existence as a body, a family. Our beloved Pastor and Friend of 20 years announced his resignation some weeks ago, and his last Sunday was December 31st. Our congregation is also considering the mostly unprecedented gifting of our building to another church as well, so there is a lot on our plate (but that topic is another entry or seventeen by itself).
Though the resignation came as a surprise to most (even to Pastor himself in a way), somehow I sensed something was going to change. I certainly didn't expect the timing though. Of all the pastors I have known personally or distantly, I respect few as I do Pastor Jack. During the years I have spent at this church I have come to respect him more and have dearly treasured our open friendship (though sadly underdeveloped to its full potential). I have briefly connected on a personal level with a couple pastors in my past, but usually pastors are busy with organization and leadership issues and don't have time to develop meaning relationships with common folk, especially youngins like myself. I will cherish our talks and... just hanging out. I'll never forget the Brazil trip(s), and dozens of other special occasions where Jack was there.
I like the smaller congregation atmosphere where it seems people are more approchable and accessible. An authentic and real family bond is created, and the relationships - if they don't last a lifetime - will certainly have effects that last a lifetime. The loving, family atmosphere is most definitely our church's strength in this age. Jack had a big part in developing and growing that legacy, and I trust it will continue.
To put it simply, I will massively miss the fellow. I will miss the vision that he perhaps only began to instill in our hearts. I am thankful for his tutelage and kindness and the astonishing example he set. He is a master at dealing with a ridiculous number of situations and personalities. I hope the best for him and his wife wherever they go.
So now our task as a church body becomes trusting in the Lord more and more, as we have NO IDEA where the road ahead will take us, both as a family and as individuals. This evening my wife and I attended kinship group (our church's small groups) for the first time in quite a while. It was their first meeting after Pastor left, and we talked a little about how we will continue, where we will meet, what we will talk about, etc. It feels so weird not having Jack there. We are all still family, and it is the tie that binds us, yet I loved so much what Jack brought with him - his wisdom, his understanding and compassion. It was such a high privilege to go on Sunday nights and glimpse into Pastor's heart, his relationship with Jesus and his desire for growth in all of us. He will be sorely missed.
Now is our chance to step up in faith. It is exciting and scary at the same time to think of being involved in such a place and time as this. I really don't know what the outcome will be or what changes we'll experience along the way. It's a new chapter in the book of Evangel Baptist Church. My hope is that God will be the ultimate Author of our future, for it will all come to rot under our care and efforts alone.
Originally published by the author on his own website: Esotropiart
segunda-feira, janeiro 08, 2007
On Sunday (December 3rd), Venezuelans reelected President Hugo Chavez, an avowed socialist, who grabbed headlines recently when he referred to President Bush as "the devil" in front of the United Nations General Assembly. Chavez won 61 percent of the vote - extending his time in office for six more years.
However it appears that six more years is not enough for Chavez. In a speech on Tuesday, he announced plans for a constitutional amendment that would allow him to hold office indefinitely. "I feel obligated to push forward with this project of socialism," Chavez said in his speech, "Venezuelans, yes, 63 percent of Venezuelans voted for a shift toward socialism. And I have to make that wish true."
Since taking office, Chavez has lead Venezuela in what he calls a "Bolivarian Revolution" - his goal being to transforming Venezuela from a free democracy to socialistic regime. While in office Chavez has consolidated power, changed the constitution, and aggressively pushed various other socialist reforms. Earlier this year Hugo Chavez appointed 17 new judges to the Venezuelan Supreme Court, one of whom has publicly expressed a desire to see Chavez become "president for life."
Despite growing inflation, unemployment, poverty, and crime in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez has retained a measured amount of popularity. Chavez has managed to survive several efforts to remove him from office, including an attempted coup and a national referendum. He has held on to power in large part because of an aggressive propaganda campaign that has shifted the blame for the people's problems on everyone from the nation's bureaucrats to the tyrannical empire that is the United States.
When Chavez first came to power he immediately embraced Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro, as Venezuela's chief ally. He also called Iraq's Saddam Hussein his "brother" and aligned himself with Libya's Moammar Qadaffi. Chavez then formed alliances with North Korea's Kim Yong-Il and then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
For the past seven years, Hugo Chavez, with the help of Cuba's Fidel Castro, has been cultivating his supporters in South America. Chavez has expanded his influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. This year, Venezuela has bought several hundred million dollars of Argentine bonds and offered similar financial support to Ecuador. Chavez also provides cheap oil to Cuba and several other countries, including Jamaica and some smaller Caribbean islands. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia all have leftist governments, and in July, Mexico came very close to electing a Communist president.
When the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and China pursued broad economic reform, many foresaw the end of the threat once posed by the spread of communism. But while America has focused its attention elsewhere, socialism is on the move in South America.
• Chavez Is Here to Stay - TIME
• Chavez: Venezuela Backs Socialism Shift - Washington Post
• Chavez to Seek End to Term Limits in New Constitution - Bloomberg
• Chavez Wins Easily in Venezuela - IHT
from the December 05, 2006 eNews issue