Why does everyone assume Christians have to carry 100% of the burden of proof for each tenet of our belief system? Is there no pressure on the person holding to an alternate worldview to back up their own truth claims? Tom addresses these questions and more, including a bit of background on the Chi Files that ties in with where the show is heading.
So the much hyped Creation Debate took place last night. In the time since, I’ve read a comment or two, but no one that I’ve encountered is really looking at this from quite the angle I am, so I’ll go ahead and speak up.
Real quick, let’s have a round of applause for Ken Ham and Bill Nye for making it through what could have easily been a rancorous debate with minimal barbs and jabs, and absolutely no outbursts or loss of cool.
Great, okay, so to begin then.
- The debate question itself (“Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”), while reasonable and even appropriate for this debate, put the creation side at a disadvantage from the start. The phrasing of the question necessarily put Ham on the defensive, as he had to take the affirmative and thus defend it from Nye.
- Nye, on the other hand, as the one taking a negative stance on the question, was left free to throw objection after objection Ham’s way without necessarily having to defend his own view from criticism. (Continue reading to find out why I say necessarily.)
- Ham was also obligated to use up valuable time defining terms and distinguishing between historical and physical science, since Nye certainly wasn’t going to do it. Indeed, Nye came in and immediately set about attempting to erase Ham’s carefully drawn lines, obfuscating what should have been an obvious and agreed upon distinction (and I don’t think Ham ever recovered from this).
- Nye for his part did not even stick strictly to the debate question. His Noah’s ark presentation was extensive, but it was simply not germane to the question of origins, strictly speaking. What it did was undermine the Genesis narrative – which of course is the primary reference point for origins from a Christian perspective – and introduce what would have amounted to a rabbit trail for Ham to have to chase after to reassert Genesis’ accuracy in a strong way. It was a masterfully executed debating tactic that succeeded in throwing dust in the air.
- Nye continued to be all over the board, taking advantage of the common debate tactic known sometimes as “scattergun” or “shotgun”, where many objections are thrown out in rapid succession. It’s difficult to counter simply because for any objection or error that takes one minute to state, five to ten minutes will be required to answer it well. As Ham pointed out tongue-in-cheek, answering all of Nye’s assertions would have taken “millions of years”.
- To his credit, Ham stuck to the debate topic well. Unfortunately, this is lost on a lot of folks who blame Ham for not dealing with Nye’s points more directly. What they miss is that Ham was the one sticking to the agreed-upon debating question and did not let himself get distracted by Nye’s ADD approach. Nye’s points deserve rebuttal, and Ham did well by pointing the interested to the AiG website where those can be found in an unabridged form.
- I do have criticisms for Ham though, such as that he wasted too much time with videos from Christian, young-earth creationist scientists. I can abide one or two as Ham’s goal was clearly to answer Nye’s claim that us folks who hold to YEC can’t be real or serious scientists (as presented in several of Nye’s internet videos), and that needed to be done. However, to continue to belabor the point once established was redundant.
- It was also clear that Ham – usually a very skilled presenter – was uncharacteristically nervous during his times to speak (stumbling over his words more than a few times), and much less at ease than the fluid Nye. It’s my theory that Ham was feeling the weight of the need to perform for his Christian base, and also for all the unbelievers who might be swayed by the debate. Nye’s strength was his confidence (some might say overconfidence), and he was able to push on easily even in the midst of a predominantly harsh studio audience, as well as when his jokes bombed. This shows what a double-edged sword aggressive promotion of such an event can be when all the attention makes you choke, and less attention might have made a better performance.
- On the other hand, this difference in performance also shows something deeper about the two men I think. For Nye, this debate was inconsequential in an ultimate sense. He claims to be patriotic, and thus wants his country to be competitive scientifically, which he believes can only happen if people abandon a creation model of origins in favor of an evolutionary one; but even that goal is somewhat of an abstraction, so there’s no real pressure on him. Ham, quite conversely, wants to see people saved unto eternity, and the creation issue is the hill he has encamped upon to fight towards that end. In sum, the stakes were much higher for Ham than for Nye in an ultimate sense, and for anyone who was paying attention: it showed.
- The bottom line issue with the debate is that it needs to be had at a more presuppositional level. The answer to the question “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” is wholly presupposition dependent (that is, how and by what standard do we evaluate the evidence?). We can go back and forth on the evidence issue ’til the cows come home, or evolve into something else, but that again comes back to presuppositions. Ham did touch on this, but oh how I wish he’d worked in his “glasses” slides I’ve seen in so many of his presentations.
- It’s easy for me to armchair quarterback from here, but if I were to give just one thing I wish Ham had done differently, it would be this. I wish he would have spent at least half of his time belaboring the fact that we and Nye differ on how to answer the debate question, and in what ways (an inherently presuppositional topic). The remainder of the time should have been spent 1. showing that ours is the more consistent approach (consistent both within itself and with the observable world), and 2. showing where Nye’s worldview falls apart and fails to account for the evidence in specific ways (hence why I said “necessarily” above).
I could go on, there’s much more to say (including how bad the actual debate format was), but I promised my fiance a date night tonight, and I need to go make good on that.
I’ve been over at Answering Muslims pretty regularly recently watching David Wood’s videos – which I have to say are the most perfect blend of educational and entertaining I’ve yet to come across (though I might be biased, apologetics nerd that I am). The site itself is a phenomenal resource for news of Islam, and they keep an archive of Christian/Muslim debates (I’ve watched at least 3 now – good stuff). If you have questions about Islam, and you can’t find it on this site, then it’s a sure bet you can find it on one of the links they provide.
At any rate, I just wanted to let ya’ll know about it. Oh, and offer a sample of just how great Mr. Wood’s videos are. Check out this one on the Qur’an burning that happened this past year, which is eye opening.
I don’t remember exactly how – some random combination of link clicking as I surfed the blogosphere I’m sure – but I found a pretty spiffy looking apologetics website run by a confessional Lutheran last night. I’ve only had the time to skim through a bit of it so far, but what I’m seeing is pretty darn good stuff.
Mostly it looks like it covers things I’ve already learned about, but it’s a new voice and another point of view on the issues (and a distinctly Lutheran one, at that), so I definitely plan on working my way through the site – even if only as a review.
Check it out:
There’s been quite the hullabaloo about Mormonism in the news media lately. As I’ve observed this discussion (brought into the fore due to being the religion of certain political candidates), I’ve noticed two things.
#1 – There is a concentrated effort to advertise Mormonism as “Christian”
#2 – The level of knowledge and understanding among the general public, including Christians, regarding what Mormonism actually teaches and believes can only be described as anemic
That said, since this has become a big issue in the public square, we owe it to ourselves to be well-informed. We Christians are called out to be a discerning people. But that leads me to a 3rd observation.
#3 – A huge swath of Christians don’t give a rip about discernment
Our culture has trained us to swallow information uncritically. We have been conditioned to accept the judgements of the general public, or of X, Y, or Z leader/speaker/entertainer without doing our own spadework and digging into the issues beneath the absolute surface level we are presented on TV.
Brothers and sisters, God calls us to distinguish light from darkness – how will we do this if we shut our eyes?
God calls us to discern truth from lies – how will we accomplish this if we stop our ears?
Now to the question: is Mormonism Christian? James White has the facts.
Christianity bases a significant amount of its doctrine and practices on the writings of St. Paul (his epistles) – a man who claimed to have received divine revelation straight from Jesus Himself.
Here’s the thing:
Mormonism bases a significant amount of its doctrine and practice on the writings of Joseph Smith (the book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price) – a man who claimed to have received divine revelation straight from “the angel Moroni”.
Islam bases a significant amount of its doctrine and practice on the teachings of Muhammad (which after his death were written down and canonized as the Quran) – a man who claimed to have received divine revelation straight from the angel Gabriel (among other sources).
So wait a minute, as Christians we throw out the visions of Smith and Muhammad as a matter of course, but why do we accept Paul’s testimony and not theirs? Why do we insist that Paul was telling the truth, while these other men were either deceivers, or deceived themselves?
6 months ago or so, I asked Issues, etc.if they would do a segment on the difference between Paul’s vision of Christ, and the visions of Joseph Smith and Muhammad to address this precise issue. It took them some time to get to it, but do the segment they did! As luck would have it, the individual they drafted to do the segment was none other than Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, a stalwart defender of the faith and a hero of mine. Further, this segment originally aired the week of my birthday – I can think of no better gift than listening to Dr. Montgomery himself answer a question of mine (and answer it well!).
In any case, now that I have the capability to embed audio I thought I would share the segment with you. It is approximately 30 minutes long, and you can also download it and other segments on iTunes by subscribing to the Issues, etc. podcast.
Several months ago I came across the blog of one Matthew Fenn, a former Jehovah’s Witness who is now a Reformed Christian. I don’t know why I haven’t before, but I’m linking to his site in my sidebar (and here) as an excellent resource for understanding and dialoguing with your JW friends.
Seriously, check it out.
I ran into a cartoon today that I thought would make for a good teaching moment. See for yourself, my comments follow.
You will often hear Christians talk about how atheism is a religion, just like any other system of beliefs. This is true, atheism is a faith. It takes a lot of faith just to believe that all this something came from nothing, for instance. It takes a lot of faith to put stock in random naturalistic processes bringing about all the complexity and diversity we see in this world. It takes a lot of faith to ascribe the wonders of human ingenuity (which of itself cannot even begin to compare to the ingenuity present in the simplest of cells) to chance collisions of atoms and energy.
Not to mention that these days many atheists are turning to theories of aliens seeding life on this planet and even more extravagant, though ultimately lacking in evidence, hypotheses. Indeed, any avenue for replacing a creator god with something less… threatening… can be and is being used to explain our origins. All of these are without solid proof and are therefore dependent, in the final sense, on faith.
This cartoon appears to attempt to militate against that, but fails. Let me explain.
What we have here is a straw-man argument. That is: an argument when both sides are put forth by one person for comparison and contrast, but the defensive side (the position being attacked) is inaccurately represented, thus rendering any conclusion null and void on the grounds that the offensive position is in fact attacking a position that the defense does not actually hold. That is: a straw-man.
Here’s the deal: in reality we do not say that atheism is a religion because they believe that “our God doesn’t exist” (and there’s the straw-man). Rather, atheism is a religion because it believes that no god exists. And to that effect, it tries to explain the question of origins in purely naturalistic terms. In other words, it is not a religion of denial [of gods], but of assertion [of no gods].
Think about it. The position that “no god exists”, it is an assertion. It states matter-of-factly that it is universally true that there is no such thing as a god.
As a consequent of this, if presented with the question of whether the Christian God exists, atheism would assert “no”. Why? Because the existence of the Christian God is antithetical to atheism’s core doctrine, i.e. that “no god exists”. Same with the Muslim Allah, or the Hindu deities – atheism is forced to reject them out-of-hand because to do otherwise would contradict their fundamental belief in no gods.
We would not say that there is a new faith born every time an atheist rejects another god. Rather, we would recognize that to reject yet another god would be for an atheist to live out his doctrine in practice.
In the same way, then, for a Christian, our fundamental belief is that a god does exist, and that He sent His Son to die on a cross outside of Jerusalem for our sins one day 2000 years ago. If presented with the question of “does the Muslim Allah exist” a Christian would assert “no”. Why? Because the existence of the Muslim Allah (who has no son and did not die on a cross) is antithetical to Christianity’s core doctrine, as outlined above. Same with all other deities or attempts to otherwise explain the origin of the universe – Christianity is forced to reject them out-of-hand because to do otherwise would contradict our fundamental belief in a dead-and-risen God.
Christianity by definition excludes the idea of Allah and other gods, therefore we don’t need “another religion” for disbelief in Allah. Atheism functions in the same way.
To put all that another way: rejection of something does not make a religion. WHY you reject something… well, that very well can.
When you boil it down, atheism and Christianity have the exact same reasons for rejecting Allah: when you ask “why”, the answer is because he does not comport with our doctrine and to accept him would be to no longer be either Christian or atheist. It is out of our dedication to upholding our central religious foundations (“no gods” on the one hand and “crucified and risen” God on the other) that we both reject Allah – but to do so does not then equal another religion still.
If none of that made sense because I wrote it all in one draft and barely took the time to check it for errors before posting it, put a comment down below and I’ll do my best to clarify.
Just wanted to throw out a quick opinion – hopefully I will get the chance to add to this post tomorrow…
The RC position of making the teachings of the Church and the decisions of the Councils the standard by which truth is weighed and determined over and against Sola Scriptura only ends up handicapping, nay, emasculating any actual apologetics effort in areas of doctrine such as the Trinity or the Vicarious Atonement.
I for one would agree with a Roman Catholic that part of the evidence for the Trinity is that it has been taught by the Church Universal since of old time and other alternatives condemned as heresies. However, in an actual debate with a Unitarian who knows their stuff, the Infallible Magisterium does more to undermine the orthodox position than to defend it.
As Martin Luther pointed out, a doctrine must be defended from plain reason based on the Holy Scriptures; otherwise it is at best opinion, or at worst blasphemy.
This is why a Roman Catholic will never win a debate with Anthony Buzzard, because most often they major in Church politics and minor in actual Biblical texts.