Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hard Questions

I was asked these questions by an atheist. Any input would be appreciated, as I'm still trying to synthesize my own thoughts on the subject.

Can an Alzheimer sufferer remember who Jesus was/is? If not, why would God want this? What if someone loses the brain capacity to believe and follow Jesus/God? Do they go to Hell?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. Can an Alzheimer sufferer remember who Jesus was/is?

Very good question, my answer is: I truly don't know.

2. If not, why would God want this?

Ultimately we can't know the fullness of the answer to this question in this life, but I think I may have a bit of an idea based on Scripture:

Titus 3:5
"He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Note the first phrase: He saved us.

How and why?: By washing of regeneration...according to His own mercy.

Who specifically renewed us?: The Holy Spirit

Another verse comes to mind:

Ephesians 2:8-10
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

How are we saved?: By grace.

Who did it?: Not us, but but faith...a gift of God. If you give a gift of 1,000,000 dollars in a trust fund to take care of every need that an elderly person suffering from dementia and paralysis had - would that gift be voided by the inability of the recipient to understand, appreciate and enjoy it? I don't think so.

Why would God want this?: Ultimately, I don't think a human can answer this yet in full. But perhaps it is partly because of the reasons mentioned above.

The most amazingly simple, yet amazingly complicated aspect of our salvation is, I think, the fact that it is all the mercy and grace of God that brings it about.

I believe the moment we start down the path of saying, "So and so can't be saved, (or saved anymore) because THEY can no longer DO such and such we run the risk of smacking headfirst into heresy and human-works-based salvation.


3. What if someone loses the brain capacity to believe and follow Jesus/God? Do they go to Hell?

If they are born again, absolutely not.

John 18:9b:
“Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

I hope nobody thinks this is an oversimplification, because I certainly don't. If any creatures have been exposed to the Gospel for longer than we have it would be the angels. And this is what the Bible says about how they still view the Gospel:

1 Peter 1:12

"It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look."

The angels aren't 'beyond it' and they haven't yet 'gotten over it' so neither should we ever let it go. The Gospel that saves us initially is the Gospel that saves us forever.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the above message was posted by Tom

Annette said...

I used to volunteer with Alzheimer patients and while I can't speak for them all, I do know that those who had such a good relationship with Christ remembered his name, even if they couldn't speak of him. I of course, can't speak for all Alzheimer patients, but just of those I knew.

But one thing I can cling to is this: God chose them. God will hold them to him. It's all his action even if our bodies and minds fail us.

R. D. Bailey said...

ask the atheist, if there is no God, why don't we just practice mandatory euthanasia on the people with Alzheimer's.

By the way; what do you get if someone is an agnostic,dyslexic, insomniac?


Someone who stays up at night wondering if there is a Dog.

Anonymous said...

"ask the atheist, if there is no God, why don't we just practice mandatory euthanasia on the people with Alzheimer's."

I'm not sure that merely being an atheist would predispose someone to being pro-euthanasia, but I can attest that the atheists I personally know are.

I tend to believe, (like Madeleine L'Engle) that there is no such thing as an atheist at heart. The reason is simply because you cannot know with certainty that God does not exist, as it cannot be proven empirically/scientifically. Of course the same could be said about believing in God.

Apart from the Bible, I don't believe it is possible to have any firm substance to cling to that proves the God of the Bible exists. That I why I gravitate toward presuppositional apologetics. Trying to 'prove' God exists apart from using Scripture seems odd to me, and logically suspect.

Tom

JB said...

Tom

I honestly don't see how someone can say they don't believe in God. The sad part about the country is that most people claim to be Christians but there is no evidence in their lives that they are. I can tell you this--God is real and I have lived part of my life not following Him and Praise God--He saved me. God is the one who saves people. Although we may not understand everything about His plan--He has one. I pray that God will open your eyes to the truth of Him. To God be the glory!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the discussion JB, though I would politely suggest reading the comments a bit more closely. I'm scratching my head a bit to find where I said that I don't believe in God...

"I honestly don't see how someone can say they don't believe in God."

Sadly though, lots of real people do at least claim this belief, (though, as I mentioned above, I don't think anyone can be a true atheist since it cannot be proven empirically that there is no God)...and this is what Scripture says about this condition:

Psalm 53:1
"53:1 The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Perhaps he is partly a fool because he ignores, as Blaise Pascal would say, the "God-shaped" vacuum in his heart against his better judgement, leading to his ultimate ruin.

"The sad part about the country is that most people claim to be Christians but there is no evidence in their lives that they are."

I agree that this is sad. Yet, I tend to agree with John Piper's analysis of this though. He says something like, to believe that a person can be born again and yet have no love for Christ and His kingdom is inherently blasphemous in nature. If these people were truly born again, then they would have new hearts, wouldn't they?

The fact that they live as if there is no God is witnessing against their spurious testimony of belief.

Put plainly, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit always produces a new, -responsive to Christ- heart where one of stone used to be. The fact that the majority of people who claim to be Christians seldom, if ever live it, would be indicative of one of two things:

(1) They are not born again at all
(2) They are in a very serious backslide.

"I can tell you this--God is real-...-He saved me. God is the one who saves people."

Amen, I heartily agree.

"I pray that God will open your eyes to the truth of Him."

I appreciate this, because even as a fellow believer I need constant, Holy Spirit enlightened re-exposure to the Gospel...we all do.

One of the main reasons people fall away from a lifestyle of living in the truth is because they think they have outgrown the Gospel. As I mentioned above, if the angels are still fascinated by the Gospel, then we ought never to neglect it.

I still stand by my statement, (perhaps this was the one that made you think I was not a believer?) that the Word is the only firm thing we can grasp that proves to us, substantively and conclusively, not only that there is a God, but that He has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 11:1:
"11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction{some translate 'substance'} of things not seen."

When I say this, I'm only affirming a pre-suppositional apologetic approach...with the pre-supposition being that outside of the revelation of Christ in the Bible we do not have access to other knowledge that ultimately leads to saving understanding of the Gospel.

I'm just not a fan any longer of simply trying to prove that an impersonal force created everything...which is what many, (but not all) ID {intelligent design} proponents seem to be doing.

I strongly feel that without pointing to Christ in particular, the best possible outcome of merely proving that an impersonal force created the universe is Deism. The worst outcome would be that it starts a religious cult based off of the Star Wars sci-fi universe.

I used to be a big fan of ID, but I've since had a change of mind. We need to get right to the heart of things with the lost world.

I feel that time is too short to only give people part of the truth...the lost could that much from the newage movement. The lost deserve to hear the whole truth, not just part of it.

There is more than just an impersonal force behind the creation of the universe, there is a Person, revealed only in His Word.

Tom

Simon said...

Hi, Atheist here,

JB: I honestly don't see how someone can say they don't believe in God.

I don't believe in God, what's so hard to understand?

I don't any atheists who say they can prove he/she doesn't exist.

The key word is 'believe'. I don't believe in God, just like you don't believe in unicorns (I presume), yet you can't prove they don't exist.

Simple isn't it really?

r.d bailey: ask the atheist, if there is no God, why don't we just practice mandatory euthanasia on the people with Alzheimer's.

Why don't we?

Is there any reason an atheist should better answer that question than a god-believer? Perhaps an anthropologist would be better able to answer.

Why do human beings not practice euthanasia on people who have become a burden to society? We don't even have to stop at alzheimers. How about unemployed people? Or a common thief?

Well, it's not all that long ago Christians were executing thieves.

Why don't we? The answer will be complex and the evidence suggests it's nothignt o do with God/gods.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know any atheists who say they can prove he/she doesn't exist."

good point, i should have clarified a bit better. i was implying, (very poorly) that to say one is an atheist is a statement of faith, just as to say one believes in Christ is a statement of faith. neither can be 'proven' in the way that science proves things. both positions must, by necessity, be taken on faith.

"The key word is 'believe'. I don't believe in God, just like you don't believe in unicorns (I presume), yet you can't prove they don't exist."

to indirectly refer to a train of thought from Tim Keller in his (excellent) recent book, "The Reason For God" i would ask: Do you have as much to reasonably and personally validate the possibility that you are correct as you expect from a Christian to validate their view?

i guess i am asking: what is it that makes you breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Phew! that's why I can rest confidently that there is no God to give an account of my life to"?

Re: unicorns.

If it is presumed as fact that nearly the entire surface of the earth has been explored or observed in some fashion - yet still no unicorns, then i'd have to say we can be reasonably assured that there are no unicorns likely to be found on earth.

as far as the rest of the universe goes, all bets are off. :)

Re: euthanasia

i won't argue with you that time and time again -and to this day- people claiming Christianity have perpetrated all sorts of vile and inhumane acts on mankind. but i'd also contend that insomuch as their lives and actions were incongruous with the true Gospel of Christ that they were likely not true believers. perhaps they were using out of context excerpts from the language of Christianity merely as a means to power? ultimately we may only judge their actions, not intentions...but the actions of such people do not suggest heartfelt inward conversion.

i'd also say this though, ideologies such as Malthusian eugenics, and social Darwinism have been popularized, (and i fear still have many followers) not by Christians, but by non-believers. these ideologies, when they were followed to their logical ends give the atheist nothing to brag about historically either.

Tom

Simon said...

Tom

If only half the world had been explored, would you be more likely to believe in unicorns?

Think about it. The way you answer this question will show your tendency to want to believe ot to prefer to wait more concrete confirmation.

I wouldn't disgree with you on points of faith. However, I'd go further and say any statement is made on faith. I believe in certain ideas of science such as evolution due to the evidence.

Of course, a supreme being could have created the evidence to mislead us. Or a race of aliens for that matter (see The Matrix). I can't prove the evidence for evolution was faked but I'm pretty convinced it wasn't. Faith.

So why do I chose science over religion - it works: men walk on the moon, me and my family are at little risk of dying from the Black Death, I can discuss theology with people on the other side of the planet...

Religion doesn't work. Christianity doesn't make sense - if your god created us as you say he did, there's no meaningful purpose to our existence.

God is Great.
God created Man.
God is still Great.

You say atheism is an act of faith.
I say Christianity is an act of nihilism.

Anonymous said...

Simon

"If only half the world had been explored, would you be more likely to believe in unicorns?"

Not per se, but I'd be more likely to believe in the possibility of them. I'd like to think I'm open-minded enough that just because something seems unusual, or even unlikely, that it could still be possible. Take the Coelacanth fish for instance. Evolutionists thought up to the 1990's when they discovered a live one that it simply had to have died out and become something else entirely for the evolutionary theory to be consistent.

"The way you answer this question will show your tendency to want to believe or to prefer to wait for more concrete confirmation."

I struggled, (and still do) with many aspects of Christianity most of my life. But the struggles, and the journey through them to search out the answers in the Word, history and science has left me with more, not less faith in Christ.

"I wouldn't disgree with you on points of faith. However, I'd go further and say any statement is made on faith. I believe in certain ideas of science such as evolution due to the evidence."

True, we all must have faith in what we base our ideologies upon. But I still must persist with my original question: How have you achieved peace of mind and tranquility in your soul that you have no need to fear the possibility that God exists and that He might one day have a reckoning of you?

In basic terms: What fact/idea/philosophy was it that comfortably pushed you (personally) over the edge toward atheism and away from accepting any form of theism as a possible way of thinking/living?

"Of course, a supreme being could have created the evidence to mislead us. Or a race of aliens for that matter (see The Matrix). I can't prove the evidence for evolution was faked but I'm pretty convinced it wasn't. Faith."

Even in my most questioning stages of youth I never saw much compelling evidence to support macro-evolution. I spent much of my youth as an avid fossil hunter and I never found or read of anything more than dubious claims of transitional forms from one species to another. So, Christianity still seemed much more reasonable to me, even in the midst of my doubts.

"So why do I chose science over religion - it works: men walk on the moon, me and my family are at little risk of dying from the Black Death, I can discuss theology with people on the other side of the planet..."

Why do you have to choose one over the other? I don't think that good science and good theology need to conflict at all. In my opinion they only differ on points of highly speculative natures that neither can test conclusively.

"Religion doesn't work. Christianity doesn't make sense - if your god created us as you say he did, there's no meaningful purpose to our existence."

True, religion doesn't work. Religion is man's bungling way of trying to relate to God...and failing miserably. But I see Christianity as something completely different...God relating to man in a personal way, in a redemptive way. In Christianity God does the work, and we appreciate His mercy.

Nobody can truly answer why God made humanity, only He knows, and He didn't make mention of it that I'm aware of. But He did tell us what we've been made to do, and what we can expect of Him in the future:

"Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

"God is Great.
God created Man.
God is still Great."

Just because we (humanity) fouled everything up through an original act of defiance does not mean that God is to blame for our personal actions, only we are to blame for what we do.

"You say atheism is an act of faith.
I say Christianity is an act of nihilism."

Nihilism as a philosophy is inherently incongruous with orthodox Christianity and I think you already know that. Perhaps hyper-calvinists could conceivably make the leap to a deviant pseudo-Christian nihilism, but that would only be due to their misunderstanding of the Gospel.

Humans are certainly something more than robots, and we definitely & truly exist...as the Christian philosopher René Descartes said: cogito ergo sum - I think, therefore I am.

Tom

Simon said...

Tom,

There's lots to comment on and these things have a habit of expanding out of control until one or both combatants' heads explodes.

You still haven't exlpained why Christianity is not nihilistic. You confess:

"Nobody can truly answer why God made humanity, only He knows, and He didn't make mention of it that I'm aware of."

So, as Christianity is the only thing we have to go on in terms of what the Christian god made us for, we are no better off being a Christian than an atheist in terms of finding a meaning for our existence.

We may even be better off as an atheist, because at least an atheist can make up his own.

Anonymous said...

"There's lots to comment on and these things have a habit of expanding out of control until one or both combatants' heads explodes."

I don't consider this combative, I consider it a constructive mutual critique. Irony and satire, (both of which I have way too much propensity for than is likely safe) are not conveyed well in online verbage. But trust me, my war boots are still in the floor of the closet. This is just semi-rowdy banter on my part, not combat by any means.

"You still haven't explained why Christianity is not nihilistic."

I'll have to get back to you on this when time permits.

"So, as Christianity is the only thing we have to go on in terms of what the Christian god made us for, we are no better off being a Christian than an atheist in terms of finding a meaning for our existence."

Not knowing WHY we exist is something I can wait on knowing more easily since I believe the Bible clearly tells us what we are created FOR. The ultimate why seems less urgent to me if I know what is expected of me now.

"We may even be better off as an atheist, because at least an atheist can make up his own."

Where is the confidence that your philosophy is going to give your life meaning though? If mankind is just a random and highly improbable collision of atoms that walks, talks and shops at Wally World, then how can we trust any of our instinctual responses to mental/sensory stimuli to be accurate and lead us to something valid...dare I say truthful?

I think that atheism brings up way more impossible questions than it tries to answer.

Tom

Simon said...

Don't worry, I was tongue-in-cheek about combatants.

"I think that atheism brings up way more impossible questions than it tries to answer."

What questions does atheism try to answer, other than 'do you believe in god/s?'

"If mankind is just a random and highly improbable collision of atoms that walks, talks and shops at Wally World..."

Being an atheist doesn't necessarily lead to that conclusion. Again, you are crediting god-skeptics with an interest in things outside their remit - all things atomic and sub-atomic. Maybe they just don't believe the god stories and aren't all that bothered about finding another explanation.

Sure, some atheists may wonder how we got here. Others may just be concerned about the validity of a story where god sacrifices himself to himself to let his own creations off the hook (a hook which also happens to be of his own making).

"Not knowing WHY we exist is something I can wait on knowing more easily since I believe the Bible clearly tells us what we are created FOR."

So you're happy to be employed as sweeper of the Floor of Eternal Cleanliness - a magic floor which under no conditions will gather dust that needs sweeping? 'This god fellow has told me to sweep so I'll sweep.'

'Ours is not to reason why...'

You see, just being told WHAT to do, does not give you a meaningful purpose. Only when you understand WHY you are doing it can there be meaning. Otherwise we's all just do the first thing anyone told us to do.

I'm not complaining about that, as such, I'm just complaining that religous folk accuse atheists of being nihilistic, whilst at the same time providing no better answers.

The pot is calling the kettle black.

Anonymous said...

I'll try to bring this train a bit closer to the track.

Ok, I'll briefly address the nihilism thing.

The most apparently nihilistic book in the Bible in my estimation is Ecclesiastes. Over and over again the reader is beaten down into submission that all is vanity and trying to grab the wind with your fists: futility.

If anyone knew how the road to self-discovery ends, it would be Solomon during his rebellious days of wine, women, wealth and song. The dude tried it all, and it was all lacking because it didn't last. "What's the point of it all?" is asked over and over.

But he doesn't leave us in the pit of despair, Ecclesiastes isn't meant to be just a downer. He leads us to the only true way to not waste your life:

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15
"9 What gain has the worker from his toil?
10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away."

You'll note that buried in all that great pathos is the revelation that whatever God does endures forever. So, if He does a work of creating a new heart and new life in a dying and soon to be dead and forgotten man, then He will sustain that new life forever.

The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that any life that is not lived for the glory of the God Who made it, will be a life wasted, and a life that leads to open-ended death.

So, the nihilism is specifically aimed at the life not lived for God. That life truly has no meaning beyond the momentary enjoyment it can find during its short span. So yes, that is nihilism...but nowhere do we get the impression that Solomon is advocating that a worthless life is to be pursued.

The ultimate height that a man can have is to be found in enjoying the God Who made Him, enjoying the transitory good to be found in this life, and hoping in the eternal good to be found through Christ in Heaven.

Oh, and I'd certainly rather sweep a dustless floor in a lovely heaven than polish china in the finest castle in hell. I mean, is there any competition there? Especially, considering that God-fellow died for me. Sweeping seems a rather easy task in return, should I be put up to it. :)

Here is the crux of the matter:

Titus 2:11 - 14
"11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

Everything a true Christian does in obeying the exhortations of Christ is to be done in thanksgiving, not as a mindless robot...but as a child toward a nurturing and loving Father Who has given much for the well-being of His offspring for His deserved glory.

Tom

Gummby said...

I appreciate your civil tone, guys, and also hats off to Tom. I've been jammed the last couple of days, and haven't gotten into this.

Simon: You asked why Jesus died? Why would God become a man and die? There are some simple facts, but deep theological meaning.

Here's what the gospel of John says:

16 "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

19 "This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God." (John 3:16-21, HCSB).

Jesus came because it was the only way for God to reconcile men, the creation that He loved so much, to Himself. All men have sinned and broken God's law (Romans 3:23). God had to uphold His justice and punish sin, and He will punish all sins that Jesus didn't bear on the cross at the final judgement.

That's the point of verse 18. Those who believe are not condemned, but those who don't believe already stand condemned. They are just waiting for judgment.

Hebrews 9:27 says that every man has an appointment with death, and after that, with judgment. My hope and prayer is that before it is too late, you will repent of your sins, and put your trust in the only one who can save you, Jesus Christ.

By the way, a guy named Tim Keller tackled some of these objections recently (and wrote a book about it). I think he did a decent job addressing some of the most common objections to Christianity, including the following:

Why does God allow suffering in the world?
How could a loving God send people to Hell?
Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive?
How can one religion be “right” and the others “wrong”?
Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God?


You can check out the audio here. If nothing else, you can add him to your "Behold Insanity" list.

Simon said...

I'll repeat my definition here:

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position which argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.

Tom: "The ultimate height that a man can have is to be found in enjoying the God Who made Him, enjoying the transitory good to be found in this life, and hoping in the eternal good to be found through Christ in Heaven."

The part of your sentence I have made bold is no different to what I have as an atheist - to enjoy life for what it is.

"Oh, and I'd certainly rather sweep a dustless floor in a lovely heaven than polish china in the finest castle in hell."

With all due respect, your preference for which pointless task you would prefer to perform adds no extra meaning to it.

Saying 'I would prefer there to be a god and a heaven' does not make it any less nihilistic. You say atheism leaves us without purpose. I say sweeping a dustless floor has no apparent purpose, either.

So can we agree both atheism and Christianity are nihilistic in essence?

Simon said...

Gummby, I only object to Christianity claiming to provide a meaning for our lives when it clearly doesn't.

Anonymous said...

"The ultimate height that a man can have is to be found in enjoying the God Who made Him, enjoying the transitory good to be found in this life, and hoping in the eternal good to be found through Christ in Heaven."

The part of your sentence I have made bold is no different to what I have as an atheist - to enjoy life for what it is.

Right, but as an end unto itself Solomon is repeatedly advising that we seek for more...because of the inherent nihilism of ONLY living for this life. Solomon says that it is good indeed to enjoy the benefit of your labor etc. etc., but he warns that it truly doesn't last or mean anything in the end...unless it os enjoyed for the glory of God. Ergo (sorry, had to use some more dead guy language) the only way to AVOID the futility of life is to love the Lord and seek His goodness...then we gain:

(A) His congenial personal company for eternity

(B) All the joys that heaven has in Christ...perhaps even a trip to a restaurant at the end of the universe?

(C) A life that was not futile, but more importantly an eternal habitation, eternally enjoyable and eternally satisfying.

"With all due respect, your preference for which pointless task you would prefer to perform adds no extra meaning to it."

Of course I was being coy with that language, but since you bought the bait...There won't be any dust in heaven since dust is primarily dead skin tissue. Having bodies that are like Christ's perfect body will eliminate decomposition.

"So can we agree both atheism and Christianity are nihilistic in essence?"

Hmmm...still not seeing it. I can only go so far as to say that they have different ways of viewing nihilism, but that Christianity - when viewed clearly - gives us an escape from it. The only way a Christian can become a true nihilist is to deny all the eternal hope that is contained within the pages.

Tom

Simon said...

Tom, if you're going to use words like 'nihilism' you need to stick to their defined meaning. Its very difficult to debate if the debaters have different interpretations of the words they are using.

So Solomon says we shouldn't only live for this life. Well, how is adding a second meaningless (after)life going to help?

"the only way to AVOID the futility of life is to love the Lord and seek His goodness..."

How does this make sweeping the dustless floor meaningful? The only thing I can get from what you're saying is - we should stop thinking and just feel the love.

Again, this is still nihilistic. It's just a love-filled nihilism.

Love does not negate nihilism, does it? If it does then an atheist's love is eually as useful against it.

"(A) His congenial personal company for eternity"

I'm sure that all lovely. But it is still ultimately purposeless.

"B) All the joys that heaven has in Christ..."

Sounds a bit wishywashy to me. Again - provides no purpose.

"(C) A life that was not futile..."

In what sense is it not futile?

We have been created but our creation (and, therefore, our existence) has changed nothing.

Tom, in essense your answer to my question, 'why is Christianity not meaningless?' is: 'because it has meaning'.

You're not actually telling me what the meaning is.

A description of how lovely the afterlife is going to be is not a meaning for life or existence.

Anonymous said...

Simon

Short nutshell answer: The meaning in/of life according to the Bible is to glorify/love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This life ends up not being wasted if it is built on a foundation that doesn't dissipate. The only foundation that doesn't dissipate is Christ.

Now, we as humans may or may not like that meaning, but just because it is imposed by an outside force doesn't invalidate it as being a true meaning.

I'm starting to get the impression you may believe that unless we get to choose our own meaning that there is no meaning. If I'm reading you right, I must say that your Western civilization bias is showing because it is typically westerners who want to dictate their own destiny rather than look to a Deity for the reasons to be.

A meaning and or reason for existence is not nullified just because:

(A) we don't like it
(B) it wouldn't be our choice

So, by virtue of the fact that Christianity has a reason/basis of meaning/existing it cannot be nihilistic. It does make mention of nihilism and informs that a life without Christ is a life wasted and largely without a point (other than perhaps to serve as a contrast to a life not wasted?), but it does not suggest we try it, if fact over and over and over and over it encourages us to run, not walk from a pointless life...because nihilism isn't Christianity.

Tom

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon, I have a modest proposal for you...no, not of the Swift variety. I'll be willing to read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins if you'll likewise read "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller.

The 'reading' does not have to be in print form, listening to an unabridged audio recording will also be acceptable. The important thing is that we each will get the entire text in some form or another.

After the proposed digestion of said materials, we can then resume the discussion being more informed of the other's point of view.

Yes, I know the thought of doing this is likely the mental equivalent of: scraping fingernails on a chalkboard or enduring a political speech, but it may do wonders to bring the 'debate' up a notch.

Interested?

Tom

Interested?

Tom

Simon said...

"The meaning in/of life according to the Bible is to glorify/love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength"

Then I ask you, does God NEED glorifying/loving?

"I'm starting to get the impression you may believe that unless we get to choose our own meaning that there is no meaning."

Not at all.

If you said to me - 'God was sad and lonely and so he created us to make him feel less lonely and loved' THEN there would be a meaningful purpose to our existence. Then there would be a real reason for me to be here.

If God created me because his floor was dirty and needed sweeping, I would have a proper purpose.

"So, by virtue of the fact that Christianity has a reason/basis of meaning/existing it cannot be nihilistic."

But it doesn't. This is my point. For me to think otherwise, you must do more than just insist that it does without revealing what it is.

If my life has no effect (ie: God is great, glorious and almighty whether I exist or not) then it is indeed wasted.

"Interested?"

Sure. Although I have read quite about on why we should believe in the Christian god.

Anonymous said...

"Interested?"

"Sure. Although I have read quite about on why we should believe in the Christian god."

Even as a Christian I'd be the first to warn anybody that much of what's been on the B.S. list (Best Seller...though there are other appropriate possibilities for those initials that may or may not refer to bovine byproducts with soil enriching properties) about Christianity in recent years is utter tripe.

For some reason the most eloquent and accurate representations of Biblical Christianity are not best-sellers. I mean, why read something eternally useful when a wide-eyed, goofy grinning used car salesman with impossible hair is telling you that God wants everybody to have a Lexus, a trophy wife/husband and $1.5 million in the bank...just so long as you buy his book: "The 3 Hidden & Previously Unknown Until I Wrote a Computer Program that Decodes the Torah Secrets to Get God to do Anything You Ask" book?

Actually, I still don't know why/how that gag works, but I work in a library and have seen that many folks eat it up like chocolate Easter bunnies.

I'm pretty confident you haven't wasted your time on any of those type of books, but some snake-oil salesmen are better disguised than others.

Keller's "The Reason For God" is one of those ultra-rare best-selling books about Christianity that doesn't make me want to run and hide in shame or feel like I need to offer a disclaimer to the world.

Ok then, I'll begin "The God Delusion" on audio cd tonight.

to be continued...

Tom

Gummby said...

Tomás: I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that Simon is talking more about blogs like mine than the Purpose-Driven Prayer of Jabez.

Anonymous said...

"...I'm guessing that Simon is talking more about blogs like mine than the Purpose-Driven Prayer of Jabez."

True, and this is a good thing too. But in all fairness, perhaps we should suggest he read "91.558 Minutes In Heaven - The Secret to Why You're All That" for himself so he can come to his own conclusions of its worthiness...nah, that would just be cruel.

Tom

Simon said...

People even come visit my blog to tell my why I should be praising the Lawd.

Gonna take me a few days to get my hands on a copy of that book. I checked Amazon and found even the 5 star reviews too dull to finish. Perhaps not a good sign...

Anonymous said...

"Gonna take me a few days to get my hands on a copy of that book. I checked Amazon and found even the 5 star reviews too dull to finish. Perhaps not a good sign..."

You could always get a copy at your library...?

I know what your feeling, I listened to the first disc of my book and I kept feeling the uncontrollable urge to find Mr. Dawkins & Ms. Ward and give them a big, non-patronizing hug. I feel much sadness in their voices...but I will trudge on and hear them out.

Tom

Simon said...

They're talking about religion, what do you expect?

;)

Simon said...

I'm watching Tim talk about his book on youtube - Authors@Google: Tim Keller. Its an hour long.

That'll do for a start

author@ptgbook.org said...

This question falls in the same general question of what happens to anyone who never had a real opportunity to learn about Christ and become converted and a true Christian. What happens to the billions in China and India who have never heard of Christ, the millions who have lived and died before Christ was born, those who have died too young, etc.?

God has provided a way for all who have ever lived to learn about Christ and accept God's plan for salvation.

There will be a general resurrection back to physical life of all those who every lived who never had an opportunity for salvation, and they will have their chance at that time. And those in this resurrection who have any kind of mental disability can be healed, and there will be time for children to grow up to an age when they are old enough to make a decision.

During this time, people will be judged for their actions in this life, and will be pronounced guilty. But then they will learn that Christ paid the penalty for them and they can be spared, IF they repent and accept God's rule in their lives and accept Christ as savior. Their names can then be written in the book of life.

See Ezekiel 37:1-14, Revelation 20:5, 11-15, Luke 11:31-32

Gummby said...

Hello, author, and welcome to our conversation (such as it is). I appreciate your comments, but I think you're mistaken.

Setting aside the subjectivity of defining "a real opportunity," there seems an overwhelming evidence that Jesus must be believed in this life in order to be saved.

(As an aside, the Old Testament is a special case, and we've wrestled with that before. The fruits of our labor can be found here, here, and here.)

The verses you referenced don't give any indication of a special opportunity for repentance of some people.

In contrast, a passage like Romans 10:14-17 indicates both the urgency of evangelism, and the idea that only those who hear and believe will be saved. Surely Paul is talking about the hear and now, not the time of judgment in the future.

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon! If you're still out there.

Well, I tried to get through the whole Dawkins book, but alas I didn't have time to finish it. I did however get his point that the evolutionary theory is the deal breaker for him.

I was left shaking my head. I was actually interested to see if he really had a new argument to 'prove' atheism. But all I found were the same old same old stuff and more stuff.

If macro-evolution, (i.e. apes becoming humans) could be proven and observed, beyond the shadow of a doubt then of course we'd have to reconsider everything we think we know about life.

That said, I still don't see any truly compelling evidence that such has ever taken place. The 'proofs' of the theory of macro-evolution are of a highly speculative nature IMO.

As mentioned before though, I'm not the type of Christian who whimpers and cries through every episode of Nova or Scientific American. I'm open to the idea that God does things in ways I don't expect and that He needn't seek my approval for being mysterious about the finer details of the cosmos.

Science works best when it ditches philosophy and works from empirical studies. Science seems to lose the plot for me when it is obvious that the scientists are working from a pre-supposition that the evolutionary theory has been proven -so- they must ignore any and all evidence to the contrary to maintain their pre-supposition.

Pre-suppositional platforms make more sense in the realm of philosophy and religion than science. Science should be about facts, (on this I agree with Dawkins) the implications of the facts should be left to the individual. Science should be about logic, structure and proofs -and yes- theories. But it is weird to put a theory in the hierarchy of scientific thought. Those places should be reserved for proven facts only.

So, in a nutshell I wasn't as wowed by Dawkins as his hype suggested I might be. He's running the same tired dog and pony show.

Are there any atheists out there who are a bit more substantive that you could recommend? Dawkins is great at ranting and railing against the ills that have been perpetuated in the name of God. Many of them were pretty solid too and would receive no argument from me. But Dawkins failed to provide compelling reasons to become an atheist.

He proved that many 'Christians' have been less than savory people - but that isn't evidence that there is no God.

I wish I could have been more positive in my reaction to the book, but it really didn't impress me much.

Seriously, is this the best argument against the existence of God out there? Surely not, surely not.

Tom

Any thoughts on any of the Keller material you've looked at / listened to?

Anonymous said...

Simon, I went to your website and saw that you've already pretty much responded to Keller's arguments.

So I guess my only remaining question at this point is: do you have anything else to add to what you wrote at your blog that pertains especially to our ongoing discussion?

I suspect we'll likely have to agree to disagree at this juncture. But I appreciate your civil tone and even-handed presentation of ideas.

I think perhaps we've been illustrating the true meaning of ideological tolerance in this dialog. You may think I'm nuts about some things, and I may think you're nuts about other things; but at the end of the day we don't see any reason to annihilate each other.

If only the powerful could do as much then we'd have a much more peaceful world.

I think it was Voltaire who said: "I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it." That about sums it up for me.

John Lennon thought the world would be better without religion - I tend to agree; but that is because I believe true Christianity to be antithetical to religion.

Religion is humanity trying to please/know God through their own impossibly inadequate and feeble means, often leading to much destruction and demonizing of everyone who does it differently that they do it.

Christianity is God initiating a personal relationship with humanity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and providing the means for it to continue indefinitely through His Holy Spirit. This [should] lead to obedience to God springing out of being loved by God. It should also lead to a joyous knowledge that our purpose is enjoy His love and worship Him for it for eternity, and that the best thing we can do is share the Gospel with others so that they may also enjoy God forever. This heart attitude shouldn't lead anyone to violence. Jesus told Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane to put his sword away. IMO Christians run amuck when they forget that command. We should speak the truth in love, never backing down, but never being cruel.

Tom