Archive for the 'Existence of God' Category

Is God eternal and temporal?

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Infinite by algotruneman

By Spencer D Gear

What is God’s relation to time and eternity? Leading conservative theologians give these explanations about the nature of God’s eternity and time:

clip_image002H Orton Wiley: ‘By eternity as an attribute of God, we can mean only that He stands superior to time, free from the temporal distinctions of past and future, and in whose life there can be no succession. This is the sense of those scriptures which speak of the eternity of God, none of which more explicitly set it forth than the reve­lation of the name I AM THAT I AM. From its first declaration made to Moses (Exod. 3: 14) to the final revelation made to St. John in the Apocalypse as that which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Al­mighty (Rev. 1: 8), this name not only declares the Aseity or Self-sufficiency but the Eternity of God’ (Wiley 1940:335).

clip_image002[1]Henry Thiessen stated that the eternity of God means ‘his infinity in relation to time…. He is without beginning or end; that He is free from all succession of time; and that He is the cause of time… That God is eternal is abundantly taught in Scripture…. Eternity for God is one Now’ (Thiessen 1949:122, emphasis in original). Thiessen refers to Gen 21:33; Ps 90:2; 102:27; Isa 57:15 and 1 Tim 6:18.

clip_image002[2]James Montgomery Boice explained that a quality in the name of God that was given to Moses – ‘I AM WHO I AM’ – ‘is everlastingness, perpetuity or eternity. The quality is difficult to put in one word, but it is simply that God is, has always been and will always be, and that he is ever the same in his eternal being’. He explained that ‘this attribute of God is explained everywhere in the Bible’. He referred to Gen 21:33; Ps 90:1-2; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 21:6 and 22:13 (Boice 1986:105).

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Courtesy Open Clip Art Library (Public Domain)

But if you then go onto the Internet where some Bible-based evangelicals are interacting, an interesting mix is found. If you want to encounter some hairy doctrine, try visiting some of the Christian forums on the Internet. There I med Brad who asked:

There seems to be two main views on how God relates to time. Most philosophers today hold to the position that God is Temporal like we are. They say that He operates and responds to events in time successively just as we would. The problem is this means God could not see what has not happened yet because… it has not happened “yet.” The only logical way to know what will happen (without causing it to happen and short circuiting free will) is to somehow experience it. And of course logically if someone has the ability to experience the future and relay it to us, then there must be more to time than only current time. And they must be experiencing time some other way than only temporally.

Some argue that God could just make good predictions on the way things will happen based on His divine observation of the way things are going in the present. Similar to seeing a marble rolling toward the edge of a table and predicting it will fall on the floor. But that isn’t the way Bible prophecy is….

The second view is that God is “Timeless.” The philosophers who view that God is timeless deny God being temporal. In their view God does not exist in or experience time in succession as we do, but rather He exists beyond time. He exists at a non-temporal location called eternity where He experiences all centuries and time at once. An analogy to help us try to even conceive of this would be to take a snapshot picture of every second of my entire life, from birth to death, and arrange them all in one giant frame that I could experience all at once. Of course my eyes and brain would be completely incapable of processing all that at once, but God’s could…..

So you can see how both temporal and timeless views fit scripture on one sense but conflict on another. On the one hand God knew things before the foundation of the world. God can see the future. But on the other hand God called out to Adam asking where he was? He was grieved by man’s sin before the flood. He expressed surprise at Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. And most importantly, we are clearly taught that God does answer prayer as a result of our asking, something that requires temporality. Contemplating all of this left me with a very mind boggling dilemma.

What are your thoughts?[1]

clip_image005(courtesy clker.com)

The thoughts that rolled in

One poster wrote:Temporal is the life we live in the present, it doesn’t pertain to our spiritual life which is what God judges after death. As for the answering of prayers that is in the hands of God. He may answer them in this life or maybe in the next. But I guarantee, that he will only answers prayers that are within his jurisdiction’.[2]

How do you think Brad would reply to the thought that temporal refers only to this life? He wrote: ‘I was wondering why you don’t believe we will experience temporal time in heaven? John describes his experience there within a temporal frame work. Paul does too. Even the prophet Eziekiel (sic) describes his vision of the throne  of God Temporally’.[3]

He continued:

I didn’t notice this the first time.

So do you see yourself as a Christian Judith?

I only asked because most Christians would say that it is being found in Christ and Him alone that renders one not guilty. You seemed to suggest there is more to it than that.[4]

Judith’s response was: ‘There certainly is, for we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this world’.[5]

Temporal time in heaven?

How should one respond to the concept of experiencing temporal time in heaven? I wrote:[6]

I also do not believe I ‘will experience temporal time in heaven’. I will experience aeviternity [7] in heaven (definition given at the foot of this article).

This is why I don’t believe I’ll experience temporal time in heaven. What is the meaning of ‘temporal’? My Aussie Macquarie Dictionary gives these meanings of ‘temporal’:

  1. ‘of or relating to time.
  2. ‘relating to or concerned with the present life or this world; worldly.
  3. ‘enduring for a time only; temporary; transitory;
  4. Grammar a. ‘of, relating to, or expressing time’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:2180).

The reason why I will not be experiencing temporal time in heaven is because time will be over when I get to glory. I thank God that it will be gone forever. I will be experiencing the aeviternal dimension of my existence in the presence of the trinitarian Lord God. My taking warfarin for heart surgery for over 30 years will have finished. All the aches, pains, conflict, wars and rumours of war will be gone forever. What a day, glorious day, that will be when my Jesus I shall see!

Further replies

Another wrote:

I believe God is timeless. That is I believe “time” is a construct of God for man’s benefit, to mark seasons, measure boundaries and changes.

When God asked Adam, Where are you? It wasn’t because God didn’t know where Adam was, it was a question for Adam to think about….in order for Adam to think about where he was at spiritually, having broken fellowship with God.

God can either be in the temporal for the sake of man, while still living in the eternal timelessness. He is after all omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.[8]

She went further:

The Lord impressed me with how while I’m down in the situation feeling overwhelmed, God is above in a multitude of dimension, seeing things that I don’t normally see and He sees it all at once and has it within his power to help me navigate through places that I thought were scary…

At that moment my anxiety vanished forever concerning those trials … I saw from a different vantage point.[9]

Here’s another perspective on Brad’s observations and question, from another poster to that forum:

We live in 4 dimensions: height, width, depth, time/space yet science has determined that there could be up to 11 dimensions (however small). God is outside of our 4 dimensions (which would be beyond time/space) and can see all of human history at one time. One example using another person in the same dimensions would be seeing a parade from a helicopter — those on the ground will only see the parade as it goes by but the person looking down would see the total parade at one time….

So, the descriptions you’ve given about God using feeling, answering prayer, is His way of communicating with us on our level but this does not mean that any of what happens on this mortal realm is a surprise to Him. I think God works through time because that is how we live but does He change His mind? I don’t think so. I think He works through circumstances and time to change us to confirm to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What blows my mind is to consider what our existence will be beyond this realm. Will we still be limited to time after we are raised by God and made “imperishable” (1 Cor 50-54) – or will it time still be a dimension that can be used for God’s purposes? That is, once Christ returns and Heaven is on Earth (Rev 21 & 22), will those in Christ move between time and eternity, like Angels do?

One of my favorite scripture passages is “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

I sense both the pull of eternity God has placed in me but also the limitation of this perishable body to understand what He has done, is doing and will do.[10]

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Photos-public-domain.com

Is God both timeless and temporal?

Brad wrote:

I totally agree that God is timeless. But again let me clarify what that term means to most philosiphers (sic). It doesn’t mean that God has experienced an infinite amount of time temporally (in succession). But rather He is experiencing all temporal time from infinity to infinity, all at once in one timeless instant….

As for Him creating time consider this; In Genesis 1:14 God tells us He created the sun, moon, and stars to be “markers” so that man could measure time, but nowhere does He ever tell us exactly when He created time. Time may actually even be an eternal extention (sic) of Himself….

So is it possible that when God said that a thousand years is as one day to Him, or one day can be as a thousand years, that He was saying just that? That He is both timeless and temporal?[11]

To suggest that God is both timeless and temporal is to say that God is a temporal Being. Such a statement is contradictory to Scripture but an oxymoron – a temporal God?? How should I respond to this post? Here it is:[12]

Perhaps you could consider this. There was no need for God to say at any place in Scripture, ‘I created time at such-and-such a time and I stated it in Chapter & Verse’. Why?

Because the very first verse of the Bible should answer that question, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1). From the very first moment God created ex nihilo (out of nothing) the very first thing he made, time began. Time is needed only because there is a creation in which it is to operate.

My proposal is that there is no need for God to state one word about his creating time because that should be understood by us as only creation needs time. At the moment God created the heavens and the earth, time began.
You might like to take a read of these two articles:

 

The unchanging, eternal, timeless God and the temporal

Here’s how I responded to Brad’s opening statement:[13]

clip_image009Thomas Aquinas (courtesy Wikipedia)

Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica (1920), wrote on ‘The eternity of God‘. He said, ‘Eternity is nothing else but God Himself. Hence God is not called eternal, as if He were in any way measured; but the idea of measurement is there taken according to the apprehension of our mind alone…. Eternity truly and properly so called is in God alone, because eternity follows on immutability; as appears from the first article. But God alone is altogether immutable [unchanging]’ (Aquinas 1920:1a.10.2-3).

Norman Geisler has summarised several of Aquinas’s arguments to support his conclusion (Geisler2003:101-103) – unless otherwise stated, the citations are from Geisler:

 

  1. ‘Whatever exists in time can be computed according to its befores and afters. However, a changeless Being has no befores and afters; it is always the same. Consequently, God must be timeless’.
  2. ‘Time is duration characterized by substantial and accidental changes. Substantial changes are changes of substance.  He uses the example of aeviternity [see definition below] (the existence of angels, and the existence of Christian believers in heaven) to demonstrate accidental changes. Accidental changes are those that are changeable. ‘Angels can increase in knowledge by divine infusion, and they have changeableness with regard to choice, intelligence, affections and places’. However, there can be no substantial changes with them – changes of their substance (what they are made of). What is true of angels is also true of elect believers in heaven.
  3. ‘Time is defined as a measurement in terms of befores and afters. God has no before or after, since He is changeless. It follows, then, that He must be timeless, for if he were in time, He could be measured according to a before and an after, which implies change’ (Aquinas 1920:1a.10.6).
  4. ‘Whatever is in time has succession of one state after another. From this Aquinas concluded that whatever is immutable is not temporal. This argument stresses another aspect of time: Whatever is temporal has successive states, one after the other. But as an immutable being God has no changing states, one after another; therefore, God cannot be temporal’.
  5. ‘In brief, total immutability implies eternity [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.2], for whatever changes substantially is in time and can be computed according to befores and afters. Whatever does not change cannot be in time, since it has no different states by which befores and afters can be computed; all are the same – it never changes. Therefore, whatever does not change is not temporal; God is eternal’.
  6. ‘Not only is God eternal, but He alone is eternal [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.3]. The reason for this is that God alone is essentially immutable, since all creatures can cease to exist. But, … eternity necessarily  follows from immutability, and from this, that God alone is essentially eternal’.
  7. Aquinas (1920:1a.10.4) provides these reasons for distinguishing eternity from endless time (in Geisler 2003:102-103):

(1)    ‘Whatever is essentially whole is essentially different from what has parts. Eternity differs from time in this way (eternity is Now; time has now and then); hence, eternity is essentially different from time. In other words, God’s eternity is not divided; it is all present to Him in His eternal Now. So it must be essentially different from time, which comes only a moment at a time’.

(2)    ‘Endless time is not eternity; it is simply more of time. Eternity differs in kind from time; that is, it differs essentially, not merely accidentally, from time. Endless time differs only accidentally from time because it is only an elongation of time. Since endless time is simply time – just more of it – eternity must differ from it essentially. To state it another way, more of the same thing is essentially the same thing; therefore, endless time does not differ essentially from time’.

(3)    ‘An eternal Being cannot change, whereas time involves change by which the measurements of befores and afters can be made. Thus, an eternal Being, such as God is, cannot change. In other words,

(a)    Whatever can be computed according to befores and afters is not eternal.
(b)    Endless time can be computed according to befores and afters.
(c)    Hence, endless time is not the same as eternity’.

‘The eternal is changeless, but what can be computed by its befores and afters has changed. It follows, then, that eternal cannot be endless time. It must be something qualitatively different, not just different in quantity’.

(4)    ‘Aquinas argued that there is a crucial difference in the “now” of time and the “Now” of eternity [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.4, ad. 2). The now of time is movable, but the Now of eternity is not. Eternity is not movable in any way; therefore, the Now of eternity is not the same as the now of time. The eternal Now is unchanging, while the now of time is ever changing. There is only an analogy between time and eternity, not an identity. God’s Now has no past or future; time’s how does’.

clip_image011Dr Norman Geisler, courtesy normangeisler.com

Geisler wrote:

‘Another way to understand the difference between God’s eternity and time is to recognize that time is an accidental change, not a substantial change. A substantial change is a change in what something is; an accidental change is a change in what something has. Aquinas pointed out that time is an accidental change, and only humanity, not God or angels, has accidental change. So only humanity is in time. Angels undergo substantial change (creation), but this does not involve time. The only mode of being that existed before angels began was an eternal mode (God)’

‘A substantial change (for men or angels) is not a change in time, for no substantial change has a before and after in time. eternity is one pole, and time the other. Hence, substantial change for man is a change into or out of time, but not a change in time. God cannot change substantially or accidentally. Since He is a necessary Being, He cannot go out of existence. Since He is a simple Being, He has no accidents. Therefore, God cannot be temporal in any way, since time involves change’ (Geisler 2003:103).

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(Augustine of Hippo, Latin theologian (354-430) – courtesy of Wikipedia)

A beautiful serve from a woman who knows her product

This woman put the challenge to Brad:[14]

Brad (B): I can’t seem to find any philosiphers (sic) who have published a conclusion like Noelle and I have arrived at. That is to say, none of them seem to want to say God is could be both timeless and temporal.

Janet (J): I don’t know why you are consulting philosophers rather than theologians. You can look all you like, but you won’t find any legitimate theologians who posit that God is both temporal AND outside of time because that is a self-contradiction, which cannot possibly be true of God. A God who is a self-contradiction is no god at all. A God who both is limited to time and at the same time outside of time is an insupportable proposition.  What theologians do say, however, is that God is absolutely outside of time but works WITHIN time to accomplish His will, and necessarily so because that is the plane on which we humans live.

B: Would a God who told us not to lie, merely “act” surprised? You can see how a critic might constrew that as deception.

J: Those of us who know God as Truth know He doesn’t “act” at anything.  Are you that critic?

B: So what if God saw the surprise party in advance and could erase that information (temporally) for the purpose of genuinly expressing surprise and thereby relate to us on our level?

J: You are suggesting that an omniscient God can turn His omniscience on and off like a light switch. So He’s omniscient, except when He isn’t? An omniscient God who is sometimes not omniscient is another self-contradiction.  Are you not able to see the absurdity?  Are there any other characteristics of an immutable (go look that up) God that He switches on and off at will?  Why is it important to you that God be surprised by anything?

This was my response to her:[15]

Congratulations on an outstanding post. Thank you for raising the stakes so that we are discussing an orthodox view of God as declared in Scripture.

I would modify one point when you stated:

I don’t know why you are consulting philosophers rather than theologians. You can look all you like, but you won’t find any legitimate theologians who posit that God is both temporal AND outside of time because that is a self-contradiction, which cannot possibly be true of God. A God who is a self-contradiction is no god at all. A God who both is limited to time and at the same time outside of time is an insupportable proposition.[16]

There are a number of liberal theologians who would call themselves ‘legitimate theologians’ who oppose an orthodox position. Here are some statements by liberal existentialist theologian, Paul Tillich (1886-1965), from his Systematic theology (1968). The chapter is on ‘The actuality of God: God as creating and related’ (Tillich 1968:280f). These are a few grabs:

  • ‘The concept of eternity must be protected against two misinterpretations. Eternity is neither timelessness nor the endlessness of time. The meaning of olam in Hebrew and of aiwnes in Greek does not indicate timelessness; rather it means the power of embracing all periods of time. Since time is created in the ground of the divine life, God is essentially related to it. In so far as everything divine transcends the split between potentiality and actuality, the same must be said of time as an element of the divine life’ (Tillich 1968:I.304, emphasis added).
  • ‘Special moments of time are not separated from each other; presence is not swallowed by past and future; yet the eternal keeps the temporal within itself. Eternity is the transcendent unity of the dissected moments of existential time’ (Tillich 1968:I.304, emphasis added).
  • ‘If we call God a living God, we affirm that he includes temporality and with this a relation to the modes of time. Even Plato could not exclude temporality from eternity; he called time the moving image of eternity’ (Tillich 1968:I.305).
  • ‘And eternity is not the endlessness of time. Endless time, correctly called “bad infinity” by Hegel, is the endless reiteration of temporality’ (Tillich 1968:I.305).
  • ‘On the basis of these considerations and the assertion that eternity includes temporality, the question must still be asked: “What is the relation of eternity to the modes of time?” An answer demands the use of the only analogy to eternity found in human experience, that is, the unity of remembered past and anticipated future in an experienced present. Such an analogy implies a symbolic approach to the meaning of eternity. In accord with the predominance of the present in temporal experience, eternity must first be symbolised as an eternal present…. An eternal present is moving from past to future but without ceasing to be present’ (Tillich 1968:I.305-306, emphasis added).
  • ‘A relative although not an absolute openness to the future is the characteristic of eternity’ (Tillich 1968:I.306, emphasis added).
  • ‘God’s eternity is not dependent on the completed past. For God the past is not complete, because through it he creates the future; and, in creating the future, he re-creates the past’ (Tillich 1968:I.306).

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Tillich’s gravestone in the Paul Tillich Park, New Harmony, Indiana (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

As you will appreciate, this is out of the mind of theologian Paul Tillich. In the quotes I have given from these three pages of his systematic theology, not one Scripture is given. Exegetical support was not on the mind of this theological liberal theologian.

However, he was a German refugee and professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. His God was the non-theistic ‘ground of being’ with whom a person could have an experiential and existential encounter. So of Tilllich, church historian, Earle Cairns, stated that ‘he dissolved both the Bible and creeds into subjective expressions of human thought to be subjected to historical criticism’ (Cairns 1981:446).

Janet’s response to me included these statements: ‘I have never thought that existentialism lines up in any way with Biblical Christianity, holding as it does, among other things, that that each individual – not society or religion or the God of any religion – is solely responsible for giving meaning to life.  That is about as anti-Biblical as it gets, in my view”.[17]

[18]My response was that I agreed. When people chuck out biblical declarations and replace with existential experience, it leads to any kind of view of Christianity. In my thesis, I’m working through how this happens with the contemporary postmodern deconstructionism that has overcome much of liberal theology. Its outcomes are just as devastating when the reader is the one who determines meaning and not the intent of the original author.
Of Paul Tillich, Janet wrote:

He who wants a salvation which is only visible cannot see the divine child in the manger as he cannot see the divinity of the Man on the Cross and the paradoxical way of all divine acting. Salvation is a child and when it grows up, it is crucified. Only he who can see power under weakness, the whole under fragment, victory under defeat, glory under suffering, innocence under guilt, sanctity under sin, life under death can say: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.[19]

That’s worthy of thought.  And he did work the Bible into that one![20]

Yes[21], it is worthy of thought, much thought. Tillich, at times, was a strange paradox in some of his views. It was he who wrote:

One should eliminate the term “eternal condemnation” from the theological vocabulary. Instead, one should speak of condemnation as removal from the eternal. This seems to be implied in the term “eternal death,” which certainly cannot mean everlasting death, since death has no duration. The experience of separation from one’s eternity is the state of despair (Tillich 1968:II.90).

He failed to weave a lot of biblical theology into that kind of statement.

What does the Bible say?

clip_image017American family Bible dating to 1859 (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Biblically, God’s eternity is affirmed in Exodus 3:14 when God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. Jesus confirmed this meaning when he stated, ‘Before Abraham was, “I AM”‘ (John 8:58). Let’s check out a few other Scriptures:

clip_image019 Genesis 21:33, ‘Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (ESV).

clip_image019[1] Psalm 90:2, ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

clip_image019[2] Psalm 102:27, ‘but you [Lord God] are the same, and your years have no end’.

clip_image019[3] Isaiah 57:15, ‘For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’.

clip_image019[4] John 1:3, ‘All things were made through him [the Word, Jesus], and without him was not any thing made that was made’.

clip_image019[5] John 17:5, ‘And now, Father, glorify me [Jesus] in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’.

clip_image019[6] 1 Corinthians 2:7, ‘But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory’.

clip_image019[7] Colossians 1:16, [For by him [Jesus, the beloved Son] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him’.

clip_image019[8] 1 Timothy 6:16, ‘who [God] alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen’.

clip_image019[9] 2 Timothy 1:9, ‘who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began’.

clip_image019[10] Titus 1:2, ‘in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began’.

clip_image019[11] Hebrews 1:2, ‘but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’.

clip_image019[12] Jude 25, ‘to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen’.

clip_image019[13] Revelation 1:8, ‘“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty”’.

clip_image019[14] Revelation 21:6, ‘And he said to me, “It is done! I [God] am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment’.

clip_image019[15] Revelation 22:13, ‘I [God] am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”’.

Norm Geisler has an appropriate summary statement of God’s eternity and creation of time:

God not only created the ages, but He was also before the ages. To be before time and to have made time is not to be in time. Therefore, the Bible teaches that it was not a creation in time, but a creation of time that God accomplished at the beginning. The Creator of time can be no more temporal than the Creator of the contingent can be contingent or the Creator of an effect can be an effect Himself (Geisler 2003:95).

Bill Craig’s understanding is something with which I concur:

If God is timeless, he is also unchanging, but it does not follow that He cannot change. I’d say that He can change and if He were to do so, He would cease to be timeless. And that’s exactly what I think He did. Whether God is timeless or temporal is a contingent property of God, dependent upon His will. What is impossible is changing while remaining timeless. But it seems to me that a timeless being can change and thereby cease to be timeless (Craig, Q & A #37, ‘God and Timelessness‘).

I think that hit the mark. If we are going to speak of God as timeless, we cannot accept that he is a changeable Being. If God changes, he ceases to be timeless – if that is our meaning of timelessness.

What do you and others understand by Bill Craig’s statement that ‘a timeless being can change and thereby cease to be timeless’?

What is our understanding of timelessness? I have a simple definition of timelessness: Timelessness refers to existing outside of time. So the Lord God Almighty is timeless only in the sense that he exists outside of time. His existence outside of time does not impede his interventions into the time realm. It was He who created time.

I recommend the apologetic article, ‘Can a timeless God be personal?‘ [UK Apologetics]

This is a topic that I have not encountered amongst the laity in my part of the world. Are the people in your church interested in this kind of topic of God’s eternity and how He relates to time? I haven’t discussed it in mine. I don’t expect it to have a prominent place in the Bible study I attend this week. Are we concerned about anything of significant interest to the people of God? Is this a place for philosophical meanderings instead of dealing with revealed reality from the Scriptures?

See:

Conclusion

The Scriptures declare God’s eternity, as having no beginning and end, in a number of concise statements:

clip_image021 ‘I AM WHO I AM’;

clip_image021[1] ‘the everlasting God’;

clip_image021[2] ‘from everlasting to everlasting’;

clip_image021[3] ‘your years have no end’;

clip_image021[4] ‘inhabits eternity’;

clip_image021[5] ‘before the world existed’;

clip_image021[6] ‘before the ages’;

clip_image021[7] ‘alone has immortality’;

clip_image021[8] ‘before all time and now and for ever’;

clip_image021[9] ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’.

Therefore, evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, provides an accurate summary of God’s eternity with these words:

God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time’. He explained that ‘sometimes this doctrine is called the doctrine of God’s infinity with respect to time. To be “infinite” is to be unlimited, and this doctrine teaches that time does not limit God or change him in any way (Grudem 1999:76).

With regard to time, Grudem made the following points, supported by Scripture:

  • ‘God is timeless in his own being’;
  • ‘God sees all time equally vividly’;
  • ‘God sees events in time and acts in time’ (Grudem 1999:77-78).

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1920. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. New Advent, 2nd rev edn, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/index.html (Accessed 2 November 2013).

Boice, J M 1986. Foundations of the Christian faith, rev edn in 1 vol. Downers Grove, Illinois/Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev enl edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Tillich, P 1968. Systematic theology, vols 1-3. Digswell Place, Welwyn, Herts: James Nizbet and Company Limited.

Wiley, H O 1940. Christian theology, vol 1 (online). Kansas City, Mo: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Available at Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-14/ (Accessed 2 November 2013).

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is God timeless or temporal?’ Brad#1, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122540 (Accessed 2 November 2013).

[2] Ibid., Judith#1.

[3] Ibid., Brad#3.

[4] Ibid., Brad#4.

[5] Ibid., Judith#5.

[6] Ibid., ozspen#14.

[7] The meaning of ‘aeviternity’ is: ‘In Scholastic philosophy, the aevum (also called aeviternity) is the mode of existence experienced by angels and by the saints in heaven. In some ways, it is a state that logically lies between the eter nity (timelessness) of God and the temporal experience of material beings. It is sometimes referred to as “improper eternity” (Wikipedia).

[8] Christian Fellowship Forum, loc cit., Noelle#6.

[9] Ibid., Noelle#8.

[10] Ibid., Cheryl#7.

[11] Ibid., Brad#10.

[12] Ibid., ozspen#17.

[13] My response to Brad#1 is in ozspen#12, ibid.

[14] Ibid., Janet#13.

[15] Ibid., ozspen#18.

[16] Ibid., Janet#13.

[17] Ibid., Janet#20.

[18] Ibid., ozspen#21.

[19] This citation is from Paul Tillich’s, The new being, chapter 11 (online), available at: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=375&C=24 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

[20] Christian Fellowship Forum, op cit., Janet#20, emphasis in original.

[21] Ibid., ozspen#21.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2016.

A biblical theist responds to an atheist

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

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(images courtesy Christ Art; Open Clip Art Library)

By Spencer D Gear

David, an atheist from the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc., wrote just prior to Christmas 2012:

Let us simplify the muddle in this topic, starting with a few basic facts.

All historians of any worth consider Julius Caesar actually existed.

Not all historians of note consider the New Testament Jesus existed.

A consensus of historian has concluded that the Jesus of the New Testament existed. Most of those have a religious bent and there are many arguments for and against this proposition. But let’s accept it on face value for the exercise.

The reason for the controversy on this part of history is that the evidence for the existence of the NT Jesus is very scant. If the NT Jesus existed, the highest probability is that he was ineffectual as being an ‘anybody’ when alive. If the purported miracles and wonders were real and had actually happened, contemporary historians would have recorded them. They did not. There is not one iota of credible ex-biblical evidence suggesting that the NT Jesus was divine.

He was not known in his time because he was just one of the run of the mill ‘messiahs’. Dime a dozen would be an adequate expression. There would be no way that he would have escaped the attention of the Roman authorities let alone the Jewish population. This is the biggest argument against the New Testament being a valid account of wonders and miracles.

Holy books cannot be trusted to be truthful or otherwise all holy books would have to be accepted.

Arguments for divinity or miraculous happenings based on the bible are as good as arguments base on the Koran or other holy books. They are not accepted by professional non-partisan historians.[1]

I responded:[2]

The reason for the controversy on this part of history is that the evidence for the existence of the NT Jesus is very scant. If the NT Jesus existed, the highest probability is that he was ineffectual as being an ‘anybody’ when alive. If the purported miracles and wonders were real and had actually happened, contemporary historians would have recorded them. They did not. There is not one iota of credible extra-biblical evidence suggesting that the NT Jesus was divine.[3]

These are your assertions that seem to be based on your presuppositions. You provided not one example to support your claim.

David wrote above: ‘He was not known in his time because he was just one of the run of the mill ‘messiahs’. Dime a dozen would be an adequate expression’.

This is no more than David’s assertion. Do you think that I’m going to be persuaded by that lack of evidence by you?

David: ‘Holy books cannot be trusted to be truthful or otherwise all holy books would have to be accepted’.

So says David.

David: ‘Arguments for divinity or miraculous happenings based on the bible are as good as arguments base on the Koran or other holy books. They are not accepted by professional non-partisan historians’.

Again, so says David.

You have as much chance of persuading me of your arguments as a Toyota salesman telling me of the benefits of a Ford car.

David wrote further:

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false. Why should I follow anything he says?[4]

I replied:[5]

First, since you ‘assume’, that is a presupposition and I would propose a hypothesis and test it for validation or falsification from the available historical evidence regarding Jesus.

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy[6] as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.

As to why you should follow Jesus, you will have to make that decision yourself, based on the truth of the New Testament Scriptures – which you state that you don’t believe as an atheist. But you are a long way from accepting that so I will not deal with that matter as I would be ‘casting pearls’ and I’m not about to do that.

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(image courtesy The Telegraph)

As for Antony Flew, you stated:

Firstly, most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye.[7]

That is a statement about the ignorance of the atheistic establishment, if what you state is true, because Antony Flew was a leading atheistic British philosopher who taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, Reading and York University, Toronto, Canada. The atheists’ ignorance of Antony Flew and his beliefs does not alter the fact of his prominence in the atheistic establishment before his conversion to deism. [See the YouTube video of ‘Antony Flew’s conversion to theism’]

David: ‘The divinity of Jesus is a myth (extraordinary story without evidence) which is believed by Christians’.
Not according to the historically reliable New Testament Gospels.

David, the atheist, wrote:

Again, this is a hypothetical and it means any god of any believer. Each can answer in their own manner. Strange but expected but none have. Your skirting around it is noticeable. Answer it about the god in which you believe.[8]

I’m not interested in pursuing your hypothetical concept of God as it is nothing more than trying to get conversation going with me. I’m skirting around NOTHING. The Trinitarian Lord God Almighty in whom I believe has stated this of your atheism:

blue-arrow-small ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good’ (Psalm 14:1 NIV).

The biblical worldview as described in the Scriptures fits like a hand in glove with the world around me – I see its beauty and its ugliness. I have recently retired after 34 years in family counselling, the last 17 years full-time. I see the beauty and ugliness in human beings (including myself) and God has told us that that is exactly the way it is:

blue-arrow-small ‘For you [the Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you [the Lord] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well’ (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV).

blue-arrow-small ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth’ (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV).

blue-arrow-small As for the ugliness in our world, we find the cause coming from the first two human beings who lived and had the choice to obey or disobey God. They chose to disobey and we reap the dire, sinful consequence. Read about it in Genesis 3.

blue-arrow-small But a new heaven and a new earth are coming (See Revelation 21).

blue-arrow-small Until then, all human beings have the opportunity of new life through Christ: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

Again David wrote:

I would not follow the words of Jesus if they did not tie up with the highest ethical standards unless he pointed out he would torture me for eternity if I didn’t. I would accept he is god and would no longer be an atheist, of course![9]

Humanistic answers like you have given here are a dud. I know. I tried them. Only a relationship with the God-man, Jesus Christ, changed my life. I would not trade that for all the $$$ in the world.

David again:

Repeat mode on: Even if Anthony Flew was very well known by all atheists, and he wasn’t, his words would not be accepted just because he is an atheist. You obviously have not looked at anything but religious nonsense about him.[10]

Your bigotry is showing up again. You want me to believe that your atheism has the sense for me to follow and that anybody’s relationship with Jesus Christ is ‘religious nonsense’. When will you quit using this ad hominem logical fallacy?[11] I should have stated that it was an example of an ad hominem (circumstantial) logical fallacy, which ‘is not an assault on the man’s character, but on some special circumstances surrounding him…. The attack is against other beliefs that the man holds’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:94).

David wrote: ‘This is funny. I say the divine Jesus is a myth only believed by Christians and you offer proof that he is not, from a Christian view’.[12]

That is NOT what I stated. This is what I said:

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.[13]

He is the God-man Jesus Christ. That’s the biblical evidence. He is not just God. He is God who became flesh and that makes Jesus the God-Man [see John 1:14; .

How do you think an atheist would reply?

This was David, the atheist’s reply, to what I just wrote:

Anthony Flew lost the plot and was manipulated by others to admit to there being a designer when he did not have up to date scientific information. He was suffering from senility at the time. Get your head out of religious websites and smell the roses.

You have failed to properly check this story out and you have failed to understand the unimportance of it. This is a dumb religious strawman. No one cares what Anthony Flew thought. Okay, I’m wrong there. Apparently some Christians think it is important. Let me rephrase that, most atheists are not interested in what Anthony Flew thought.

I really don’t even care if he was of sound mind and chose to believe in a designer force, a deity or a god or even the Christian God, the Islamic Allah or Bugs Bunny.

Calling my comments on this matter, bigotry is inaccurate. (to say the least)

I certainly don’t want discussion with you to go any further. What made you think I would?

A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed.

Can you answer it thanks. It will not harm you.[14]

[15]You are into logical fallacies big time as you have demonstrated here: Genetic fallacy[16], straw man fallacy[17], and red herring fallacy[18].

No, I will not answer any further as there cannot be a logical discussion when you continue to use logical fallacies like this towards my posts.

I also chose to respond[19] to David’s statement above: ‘A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed’.

Yes, they do, but you don’t want to listen to all of the reliable historical evidence that is available from Scripture. Yes, reliable historical evidence. This has been proved many times over, but you don’t want to hear about it.

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Dr. Paul Barnett

(image courtesy Anglican Church League)

Dr. Paul Barnett, a former history teacher at Macquarie University, Sydney, has written a number of publications that confirm the historical reliability of the Bible. He wrote as a historian and a Christian. His publications include:

1. Is the New Testament History (rev)? (Servant Publications 1987).
2. Jesus and the Logic of History (IVP Academic 2001);
3. Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity (IVP Academic 2002);
4. The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Eerdmans 2005);
5. Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Eerdmans 2008).

He was so competent as a historian that Macquarie University hired him to teach history. He is an ‘Honorary Visiting Fellow in Ancient History (Macquarie University)’[20] and confirms the historical reliability of the New Testament.

But, ah! You, as an atheist, don’t want to hear that evidence. You write off ‘Biblical quotes’, but Dr Paul Barnett, the historian, can demonstrate the historical reliability of the New Testament. As an atheist, you have decided to exclude reliable historical records from your repertoire of historical evidence? Why? Your presuppositional bias against the Bible!

How do you think David, the atheist, would respond to this?

Looking back at some of your posts over time shows a preponderance mention of various fallacies, which you love to throw around like confetti for effect. Mostly they are not related to that which you are criticising and it is only done to show you are innocent of written wrongdoing yourself and the master describing the literary faults of others. If I had to guess, I would say that religious-method-lessons, (some religious websites promote this dishonesty and a start to investigate can be found here http://www.atheismsfallacies.com/ ) panic, desperation, run out of ideas and insecurity causes this.

And about the question, well, looks like your fear of the wrath of Yahweh is showing even though you didn’t state it just in case he found out.
Do you mean Paul William Barnett, the ex-Anglican Bishop of North Sydney? Yes, he would be unbiased as it gets. Not.

BTW, the Garden of Eden was not real, it is a bad metaphor at best and anyone using it in discussion as though it was real, should be careful of calling other people names concerning credibility. And I am not going into the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments…trust me.[21]

How does one respond to such a put down of the Christian faith and misinterpretation of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis? This was only a brief reply by me:

David: ‘Do you mean Paul William Barnett, the ex-Anglican Bishop of North Sydney? Yes, he would be unbiased as it gets. Not’.

He is such a competent historian that Macquarie University hired him. And you, an atheist, would be as unbiased as it gets. Right??

David: ‘BTW, the Garden of Eden was not real, it is a bad metaphor at best and anyone using it in discussion as though it was real, should be careful of calling other people names concerning credibility. And I am not going into the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments…trust me’.

This is David, the atheistic president of the Australian Atheist Foundation speaking. Please tell me your qualifications in biblical hermeneutics.
Here you are with your ad hominem logical fallacy again: ‘the creationist mumbo jumbo arguments’.

We cannot have a logical discussion when you resort to these kinds of tactics in your misotheism.[22]

I also replied:

David: ‘Looking back at some of your posts over time shows a preponderance mention of various fallacies, which you love to throw around like confetti for effect. Mostly they are not related to that which you are criticising and it is only done to show you are innocent of written wrongdoing yourself and the master describing the literary faults of others. If I had to guess, I would say that religious-method-lessons, (some religious websites promote this dishonesty and a start to investigate can be found here http://www.atheismsfallacies.com/) panic, desperation, run out of ideas and insecurity causes this’.

This is a false accusation. This is also another example of your use of a fallacy of relevance: An error that does not address the issues (Geisler & Brooks 1990:93-100).

When I have accused you of using this and other logical fallacies I have been accurate in my accusations. I happen to know what opponents of Christianity do and you are no exception with your use of logical fallacies.

‘If I had to guess’.

That’s exactly what you have done here.

David’s response: [23]

“He is such a competent historian that Macquarie University hired him. And you, an atheist, would be as unbiased as it gets. Right??”

Let’s get some facts straight as you are being quite disingenuous on a number of fronts. Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus. As far as I know he does not aspire to creationism.

The existence of Jesus of the New Testament is not under dispute in this thread as it is unimportant. What is of paramount significance is whether this character was divine. There is no credible ex-Biblical evidence for that As a Christian, he may hold the view that Jesus was divine on faith but that is all.

“Please tell me your qualifications in biblical hermeneutics”.

No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you. And if there was one interpretation then there would be one religion. This method of escaping the question of your creationist leanings is another example of manipulating the language.

I don’t have to be an expert as the human race is very lucky, it has the best truth finder there is, it is called science. It’s not perfect but nothing comes close to it. Science would be very pleased indeed if creationists could demonstrate another force in the universe but creationism/intelligent design has failed to produce any studies refuting evolution in accredited scientific journals where they may be investigated by peer review.

And please don’t come back with excuses that scientist have a conspiracy theory against God, are influenced by the Devil or are deluded and therefore won’t allow any studies to be published. That is nonsense.

A GAC speaker and evolutionist, Eugenie C. Scott, is the Executive Director of the National Centre for Science Education. Have a look at what she says here. Watch at 33:50 if not wanting to view the whole video. But, it is glaringly obvious that you definitely need to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lvsE_ZYcP8&list=PL7C0CA45F60FD44C7&index=14.

My response was:[24]

David: ‘Let’s get some facts straight as you are being quite disingenuous on a number of fronts. Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus. As far as I know he does not aspire to creationism’.

Here again you are using a fallacy of relevance. I was not addressing an aspect of creationism. You wanted to discredit Paul Barnett in a previous post because he was the former Anglican bishop, so what do you do now? You switch horses with a red herring fallacy. I gave you books on the demonstrated reliable history of the New Testament written by a competent historian, Dr. Paul Barnett. But you are not interested in pursuing what Dr. Barnett states about the New Testament as history. It is in the historically reliable New Testament that we have the biblical evidence for the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ. He is the God-man and not just God or just man.

David: ‘The existence of Jesus of the New Testament is not under dispute in this thread as it is unimportant. What is of paramount significance is whether this character was divine. There is no credible ex-Biblical evidence for that As a Christian, he may hold the view that Jesus was divine on faith but that is all’.

The existence of Jesus, the God-man, is under discussion in this thread, which is authenticated by the NT, and you have denigrated the historical veracity of the NT.

David: ‘No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you. And if there was one interpretation then there would be one religion. This method of escaping the question of your creationist leanings is another example of manipulating the language’.

You are demonstrating your ignorance. I happen to have a BA in biblical literature and NT Greek, which means that I have completed courses in hermeneutics. I’m currently working on a PhD in New Testament with a university. You have misrepresented me.

David was back again:[25]

The New Testament Jesus may be under discussion by you but it is irrelevant to me. I am not going to say this again. It is the divinity of Jesus that is pertinent as Jesus the man is only a man. Bugs Bunny is a rabbit and only a rabbit. He is not an actual creature.

It is a red herring that you play continually on the historical Jesus. Don’t do it.

If you have qualifications, (where did you achieved them) or if you are a young or old earth creationist and you wish to have proper discussion, those facts should be divulged. Please lay this information on the table now.

You can consider that Jesus was a God-man but there is no evidence for that. Stop manipulating the topic to make out there is. What is the ex-biblical evidence for Jesus being a God-Man? I mean universal evidence that would be accepted by all.

Oh, and by the way, the terribly hard question I posed does have a very simple answer.

Here is the question again.
David: ”I am very happy with my life and live it similarly to most reasonable people in the community.
Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false.
Why should I follow anything he says?”

Answer: Because you will go to hell if you don’t.\

The implications should be obvious.

I responded that there are a number of misguided and false statements in what you have written here.

1. David wrote: ‘The New Testament Jesus may be under discussion by you but it is irrelevant to me. I am not going to say this again. It is the divinity of Jesus that is pertinent as Jesus the man is only a man’. You might try to get away with diverting the divinity/deity of Jesus from the New Testament, but it is in that historically reliable NT that I find the teaching on the deity of Christ. Nice try, but it doesn’t work.

2. David: ‘If you have qualifications, (where did you achieved them) or if you are a young or old earth creationist and you wish to have proper discussion, those facts should be divulged. Please lay this information on the table now’. You don’t have the humility to acknowledge what you don’t know about me. But you give us another red herring fallacy.

3. In another post above, you wrote of New Testament historian and exegete, Dr. Paul Barnett: ‘Paul William Barnett is a fellow in ancient history at the Macquarie University. He has written about the history of the New Testament and not the divinity of Jesus’. From where did you get that quote?

It is a blatantly false statement, as is demonstrated in Paul Barnett’s book, Messiah: Jesus, the evidence of history. You have proved again that you don’t know what you are talking about and have erected another straw man logical fallacy.

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This review of Barnett’s book on Messiah has the heading, ‘Messiah: Jesus, the evidence of history; Paul Barnett argues for the deity of Christ’.

Paul Barnett affirms the deity of Christ in his online article, ‘The Great Creeds’.

You are digging yourself further into the hole of ignorance with what you stated of Paul Barnett and the divinity/deity of Christ.

4. You also stated of me, ‘I think OzSpen would pull you up about arguments from authority. That is on his cute little fallacy list. Be interesting to see if he does or doesn’t’.[26] Here you are engaging in your ad hominem logical fallacy against me. Sure sounds like you don’t like being called for your use of logical fallacies when you use ‘his cute little fallacy list’ as an ad hominem against me.

I do not wish to continue this discussion further as it is impossible to engage in a logical discussion with you when you continue to use logical fallacies. Bye, and I pray that one day you’ll come to know the Jesus revealed in the historically reliable New Testament. However, perhaps you’ll have to wait for that until you breathe your last breath.

I wrote to David,

David: ‘Discussion with you is next to useless and you have mentioned Leviticus and the nature of your god. Here are some other parts of this god’s nature from Leviticus (KJV version). As you know, there are Christians promoting ‘dominionism’ as a way of governing countries. (Are you one of them?) This means following the Bible as is written. Scary stuff’.

AND

David: ‘I really don’t need or warrant your condescending remarks about me not being ready for your particular god. No, I’m not ready for any of the thousands of gods, but only because I have not surrendered my mental integrity to indoctrinated nonsense’.

These are further examples from you of red herring logical fallacies. You did not respond to the 5 points I made in two posts. You were off and running with your own agenda without addressing the content of these five points.

Discussion with you is impossible when you continuously resort to the use of logical fallacies. Nice try but no cigars![28]

David’s response was:

I don’t smoke, so no cigar for me thanks. A beer to go with the Saturnalian originated festivities of the season would be acceptable though. There are no reasons good enough that you have offered, for me to take the words in your bible seriously, so I don’t. It’s not that I won’t accept these scribbling’s from centuries ago by a superstitious race of people, it’s that they are meaningless to non-indoctrinated folk.

I do have a sadness for you but I am not responsible for you surrendering your mind to your childhood teachings, not being able to escape the instilled terror of torture forever and your incapability to be able to face death head on, but I do mind that you would just as easily lay this rubbish on the innocent minds of children who have no defence against the fears you would instil. If you wish to think in this contorted fashion although it is not your fault, so be it. Only you can undo the damage you have experienced.

Your god talk is no different than the god talk of other sects of Christianity or other religions.

It is ridiculous to ask me to respond to biblical ideas. That is just a ploy to escape answering the question I posed. Some would call this gutless on your behalf, but I rather think of it as something not of your doing.

It is obvious that the AFA [Atheist Foundation of Australia] must try harder so as not to let this kind of warped behaviour infect the thought process of new generations. But, on the other hand, the zealotry observed on this thread by religious people is a lesson enough to others that even in Australia, religion, like rust, never sleeps.

The good thing is that like rust, the material rusting eventually rots away to nothing. We are seeing this demonstrated with Christianity now. Even though the flaying around is palpable, within a couple of generations religion will be a negligible and powerless part of society.

I see there has been no answer to the biblical quotes I provided. Interesting.[29]

In another response to David, I stated:

David: ‘If you had read the sentence before the one you quoted you would not have made such a dick of yourself. Here it is: “even in Australia, religion, like rust, never sleeps”’.[30]

Please forgive me for my error. I got the context wrong.

From the Australian 2011 census, mainline denominations are declining, but the Roman Catholics grew slightly; Baptists and Pentecostals grew more quickly. See: http://blog.id.com.au/2012/australian-census-2011/2011-australian-census-christian-religions/.

This census provides these details:

  • ‘Though Christianity as a whole declined as a proportion of the population in 2011 (from 63.9% in 2006 to 61.1% in 2011), there were substantial differences between Christian groups’;
  • ‘Among the larger Christian denominations, Catholicism grew slightly, adding 310,000 people (6.1%), to remain the largest response in Australia. Many of the major protestant denominations fell, including Anglican (-38,340), Uniting Church (-69,633), Churches of Christ (-5,133) and Salvation Army (-4,044). These are somewhat affected ageing of the UK-born population, as well as the drift to no religion. The Anglican Church, long Australia’s 2nd largest religious grouping has fallen from 23.9% of the population in 1991 to 18.7% in 2011.
  • In contrast, the Charismatic churches such as Baptist (+35,757) and Pentecostal (+18,305, which includes Hillsong) continued to record increases (they were well up from 1991-2006 so this is a longer term trend)’.

From other details, we have this information:

  • For the evangelical Anglicans of the Sydney diocese, ‘based on Weekly Average Service Attendance data of all ages, Sydney Anglican congregations are growing at around 1.4% per annum’ (see: http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2011/08/why-arent-we-growing/). However, Tony Payne, who wrote this assessment of the research data, headed his article, ‘Why aren’t we growing?’ The remainder of the Anglicans declined. This is expected as theological liberalism (modernist or postmodernist) has invaded the ranks.
  • The Western Sydney Regional Organization of Councils indicated that for that region, the total number of Christians, from 2006 to 2011, had increased from 897,075 to 914,855. This is out of a total population of 1,507, 877 in 2011 (see: http://profile.id.com.au/wsroc/religion).

So, the research data here is not as ‘rusty’ as you want to paint it

Conclusions

In my discussion in On Line Opinion’s topic of ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia’, David the atheist, used some tactics that have to be challenged:

1. He is a whiz at the use of logical fallacies. I challenged him in his use of these fallacies: ad hominem (circumstantial), genetic, red herring, relevance, and straw man.

2. At times he shoots off at the mouth on subjects he does not know about. He does not know me and my qualifications or experience, but he wrote me off this way when I asked him what qualifications he had with biblical hermeneutics (interpretation): ‘No, I’m not an expert on interpretation of the bible. Neither are you’. He is ignorant of my background but still wants to give his uninformed rave against me.

3. As I’ve indicated to him, the evidence for the existence of God is in both Scripture and the general revelation of the universe, including human beings. This evidence is so adequate, from God’s perspective, that God, through the Psalmist, can state: ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God”’.

4. His association of the decline of Christianity with ‘rust’ and religion will become ‘a negligible and powerless part of society’, is not matched by the evidence.

I highly recommend this Ravi Zacharias presentation on YouTube, ‘The Existence of God’.

References

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come let us reason: An introduction to logical thinking. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes


[1] On Line Opinion, ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc’, Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Friday, 21 December 2012 10:47:51 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=19 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[2] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 21 December 2012 6:21:56 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=21 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[3] This is what David wrote above.

[4] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:30:50 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=24 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[5] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 6:53:24 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[6] We need to understand logical fallacies so that we can learn to recognize bad logic in an argument. ‘Fallacy is a general term referring to anything that can possibly go wrong in a logical argument. It is important to know fallacies because even though they might be psychologically persuasive, they are not logically correct. They cause people to accept conclusions for inadequate reasons. By knowing fallacies, we can specify why an argument is faulty. But knowing fallacies is not only to a help in refuting error; it also protects us from criticism and gives us the ability to develop clearer expression of our thoughts’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:81).

[7] On Line Opinion, op cit., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 11:22:12 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[8] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 9:35:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=28 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] ‘ad hominem’ is Latin meaning, ‘Argument against the man’. It is an alias for ‘the fallacy of personal attack’. See: ‘Argumentum ad hominem’, available at: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[12] On Line Opinion Forum.

[13] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 6:53:24 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=26 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[14] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 1:31:31 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=29 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[15] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 23 December 2012 4:10:12 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=29 (Accessed 29 December 2012).

[16] A genetic logical fallacy is ‘a special type of reductive fallacy in which the single issue focused on is the source or origin of an idea. The argument demands, “Something (or someone) should be rejected because it (or he) comes from a bad source.” This is an attempt to belittle a position by pointing out its inauspicious beginnings’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:107). Examples of his logical fallacy by David are in these statements, ‘Get your head out of religious websites and smell the roses’; ‘This is a dumb religious strawman’; ‘A fluster of posts with Biblical quotes, religious stories and anecdotes do not answer the question I posed’.

[17]What is a straw man logical fallacy? ‘Another way to stack the deck against the opposition is to draw a false picture of the opposing argument. Then it is easy to say, “This should be rejected because this (exaggerated and distorted) picture of it is wrong.” The name of the fallacy comes from the idea that if you set up a straw man, he is easier to knock down than a real man. And that is exactly the way this fallacy works: set ‘em up and knock ‘em down. It is argument by caricature. It avoids dealing with the real issues by changing the opposition’s views’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:101). David’s examples of the use of this fallacy against me include: ‘I really don’t even care if he was of sound mind and chose to believe in a designer force, a deity or a god or even the Christian God, the Islamic Allah or Bugs Bunny’.

[18] A red herring is a ‘device for changing the subject [and] is less sneaky; it just does it! Pulling a red herring across the platform will divert attention. So will telling an irrelevant joke. A red herring argument says, “Accept this because this other subject is interesting (funny, witty, etc.).” Rather than proving the point, this fallacy simply evades the question by changing the subject, then proceeding as if the point had been made. Often the other topic bears a superficial resemblance to the one being discussed. Don’t let that fool you! If no proof is given, there is no reason to accept the argument’ (Geisler & Brooks 1990:104). David the atheist changed the topic here with my raising the example of Antony Flew, an atheist who became a deist and his going off at a tangent about Antony Flew, with a statement like this: ‘most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye’. The fact is that Antony Flew moved from atheism to a belief in God known as deism. You can read about his change of belief in Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese 2007. There is no/a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. New York: HarperOne.

[19] On Line Opinion op cit., Posted by OzSpen, Sunday, 23 December 2012 4:49:25 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 23 December 2012).

[20] See the Paul Barnett page, available at: http://paulbarnett.info/sample-page/ (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[21] On Line Opinion, Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Sunday, 23 December 2012 5:07:40 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[22] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 24 December 2012 7:38:13 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=30 (Accessed 24 December 2012). ‘Misotheism’ refers to hating God. Bernard Schweizer has written the book, Hating God: The untold story of misotheism (2011. Oxford: Oxford University Press).

[23] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 9:40:58 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[24] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 24 December 2012 10:15:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[25] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 10:45:45 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[26] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Monday, 24 December 2012 12:02:18 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=31 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[27] Ibid., Posted by worldwatcher, Monday, 24 December 2012 1:40:00 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=32 (Accessed 24 December 2012).

[28] Ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 9:24:24 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=38 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

[29] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 10:04:17 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=38 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

[30] Ibid., Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 9:01:13 PM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=39 (Accessed 27 December 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 June 2016.

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Evidence for the existence of God

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

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Courtesy ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia wrote:[1]

It is most unlikely that anyone will ever prove there is no god any more than the existence of fairies will be disproven. Humans will be able to live in their minds without fear of being ever exposed by such proof. But, what is happening is that many people are working out the inconsistencies with the god concept and its many religions and that the idea is adding to the suffering of humanity.

I know that many just disregard the god thing but don’t call themselves atheists. Ostensibly though, they are atheists. It’s from the Greek, ‘without a deity’. I have the feeling that calling oneself an agnostic, and I’m not saying you do that, and this wouldn’t be in all cases, but the niggling fear of a revengeful god lingers in the back ground so why take the risk.

One thing that leads folk to eventually call themselves atheist is that they tend to consider the rational universe as proof positive that a god who engineered it would not be so petty as to torture people forever because it didn’t supply enough rational evidence to prove its existence. Atheists do not consider ‘faith’ to be a virtue. Faith is a not knowing position and that can and is manipulated by the many religions to the detriment of billions of people.

This creates false dichotomies like god vs fairies; humans living in their minds vs fear of being exposed by proof; and rational universe vs proof positive of torturing people forever.

There are strong pointers to the existence of God and philosopher/theologian William Lane Craig has demonstrated these in this interview and then a university presentation:

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Reasonable Faith

What was David’s response to this challenge?[2]

This was my brief reply:[3]

David wrote:

I strongly advise you to look at information not emanating from religious sources. Some religious material is good and accurate but much of it is false and misleading intentionally or unintentionally but mainly because of bias. The problem is working that out.[4]

My reply was: Here you go with another genetic fallacy. It is a fallacious argument and we cannot have a rational conversation when you do this.

I have looked at evidence from non-Christian (including atheistic) and Christian sources over a period of 50 years. I have concluded that you, as an example of an atheist, will not look objectively at ALL of the evidence, including the New Testament. When you write off the historical reliability of the NT Gospels, you are demonstrating your bias.

I know what a fallacious Genetic Fallacy Argument is and you use it.

David wrote again:

Let us assume for a moment that Jesus is God, he does exist and all the other gods are false. Why should I follow anything he says?[5]

My response as OzSpen was:

First, since you ‘assume’, that is a presupposition and I would propose a hypothesis and test it for validation or falsification from the available historical evidence regarding Jesus.

However, the worldwide evidence indicates that your first statement does not define the nature and personhood of who Jesus is. ‘Jesus is God’ cannot be a complete statement about his true nature as the New Testament reveals. Your ‘Jesus is God’ scenario is erecting a straw man logical fallacy as Jesus’ nature is more comprehensive than that.

As to why you should follow Jesus, you will have to make that decision yourself, based on the truth of the New Testament Scriptures – which you state that you don’t believe as an atheist. But you are a long way from accepting that so I will not deal with that matter as I would be ‘casting pearls’ and I’m not about to do that.

As for Antony Flew, you stated: ‘Firstly, most atheists had never heard of Anthony Flew until it was touted he had changed his mind. Anthony Flew did not believe in a personal god or even the Christian god but came down on the side of a kind of deism. But there is more to this story than meets the eye’.

That is a statement about the ignorance of the atheistic establishment, if what you state is true, because Antony Flew was a leading atheistic British philosopher who taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, Reading and York University, Toronto, Canada. The atheists’ ignorance of Antony Flew and his beliefs does not alter the fact of his prominence in the atheistic establishment before his conversion to deism.

David: “The divinity of Jesus is a myth (extraordinary story without evidence) which is believed by Christians”.

Not according to the historically reliable New Testament Gospels.

Antony Flew’s death

For a description of Antony Flew’s movement from a leading atheistic philosopher to a believer in God (a Deist), see: Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese 2007. There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Antony Flew died, at the age of 87, on 8 April 2010. See:

A response to the assault on Jesus’ historicity

I highly recommend a read of John Dickson’s article for ABC Religion and Ethics, Opinion: A fight they can’t win: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus(24 December 2012).

Notes


[1] OzSpen to David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, On Line Opinion, ‘Merry Christmyth from the Atheist Foundation of Australia’, Saturday, 22 December 2012 8:51:48 AM, p. 23, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=23 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[2] Posted by David of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 8:53:21 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=23 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:08:14 AM.

[4] See endnote #2.

[5] Posted by Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc, Saturday, 22 December 2012 9:30:50 AM, available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=5547&page=24 (Accessed 22 December 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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What is a biblical method for defending the Christian faith (apologetics)?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Christianity Cross

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

On Christian Forums, I asked this question, ‘What do you consider is a biblical framework for a ministry of apologetics? If Bill Craig is wrong, what would be a biblical method of apologetics? Any thoughts?’[1]

One response was:

Have you ever noticed that none of the Biblical writers ever put the existence of God into question, or speak as though God probably exists, more likely exists. An apologetic which is faithful to the God of the Bible therefore, should never start on the promise of neutrality, or anything to the effect of “let’s see where the evidence takes us”, as though the evidence were neutral. All of the biblical writers were biased, and did not question the existence of God, nor speak of God in terms of probability.[2]

This was my reply:[3]

Is there a need to provide evidence for the existence of God?

I agree that the Bible writers don’t question the existence of God, but they provide something that you seem to be minimising.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible does provide evidence for the existence of God?

Psalm 19:1, ‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship’ (NLT).

Psalm 50:6, ‘Then let the heavens proclaim his justice, for God himself will be the judge’ (NLT)

Romans 1:19-20, ‘They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.’ (NLT).

Romans 2:14-16,

‘ Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life’ (NLT)

Acts 14:17, ‘but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts’ (NLT).

Acts 17:24-27,

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man [or from one, or from one blood] he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us (NLT).

I agree that the biblical writers did not question the existence of God or speak of him in terms of probability. However for the doubters in my culture, we have biblical evidence that these writers provided evidence for God’s existence, as the Scriptures above demonstrate.

I wish you lived in an antagonistic western culture like mine in Australia. Then you would understand the necessity of providing evidence for the existence of God, for which we have scriptural precedent.

What’s a biblical method of apologetics?

This was another response to my question:

It’s really simple, a biblical method of apologetics begins and ends with the authority of Christ over every area of life (sanctify the Lord God in your hearts). That means we presuppose the absolute certain truth of Christianity in our defense. However, that does not mean we cannot assume an opponents presuppositions for the sake of the argument to show them the foolishness of their worldview. We should because everyone has a worldview with basic presuppositions. However, it is a delicate process, which should be done with meekness and fear (of God) and a good conscience.[4]

I responded:[5] In my hostile culture, that would be a recipe for disaster in an apologetic ministry. Presupposing Christ’s authority, the absolute certainty of Christianity, would lead you into a brick wall in my secular culture?

I often find it helpful to examine a person’s presuppositions with them to see why they are valid or not. Of course, for me the authority of Christ and the truth of Christianity are my foundations for personal belief. However, that’s not where I begin with secular Aussies. That’s where I pray to finish.

Why don’t you take a read of Appendix B, ‘The self-revelation of God in human history: A dialogue [with Antony Flew] on Jesus with N. T. Wright’. It is on pp. 185-213 in Antony Flew’s book, There is no/a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind (2007). That could enlighten you on an appropriate apologetic by an evangelical with one of the world’s leading atheists.

Secularists love to repudiate this book. One example is, ‘Antony Flew’s passing’ (The Secular Outpost, 16 April 2010). Another was, ‘Evangelicals and the death of Antony Flew’ (The Incredible HallQ, 20 April 2012). See this BBC assessment by William Crawley, ‘Antony Flew: The atheist who changed his mind’.

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(image courtesy Crossway Books)

Antony Flew’s response to Tom Wright’s defense of Christianity was:

I am very much impressed with Bishop Wright’s approach, which is absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. This is enormously important, especially in the United Kingdom, where the Christian religion has virtually disappeared. It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful (Flew & Varghese 2007:213).

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Antony Flew (image courtesy HarperCollins)

Isn’t that an amazing statement about N T Wright’s presentation of the truth of Christianity to someone who was a leading atheist and who was not yet Christian! ‘It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful’.

Yet Tom Wright’s presentation to Antony Flew is radically different from the one you are proposing. Wright presented evidence on, (1) How do we know that Jesus existed? (2) ‘What grounds are there for claiming, from the texts, that Jesus is God incarnate?’ (3) ‘What evidence is there for the resurrection of Christ?’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:187-213)

Wright did not take your kind of presuppositions as his foundation, i.e. your beginning with the authority of Christ and the absolute certain truth of Christianity. Wright demonstrated these with evidence and Flew found the evidence to be ‘absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful’.
Tom Wright is pursuing a model that is consistent with the biblical revelation – provide evidence for the doubters and antagonists for the existence of God, Christ and the reliability of the biblical tradition.

A point of contact

When Paul, the apostle, wanted to connect with unbelievers, what did he do? See his address at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22-34 NLT):

So Paul, standing before the council,[a] addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, 23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man[b] he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your[c] own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.

30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council,[d] a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Footnotes [for Acts 17:22-34 NLT]:

a. Acts 17:22 Traditionally rendered standing in the middle of Mars Hill; Greek reads standing in the middle of the Areopagus.

b. Acts 17:26 Greek From one; other manuscripts read From one blood.

c. Acts 17:28 Some manuscripts read our.

d. Acts 17:34 Greek an Areopagite.

Interviews with Antony Flew

For an interview of former atheistic philosopher, Antony Flew, by Christian philosopher, Gary R Habermas, read, ‘Atheist becomes theist’. See also a YouTube version, ‘Antony Flew’s conversion to theism’.

Death of Antony Flew

Antony Flew died on 8 April 2010. See this report in The Telegraph [UK], ‘Professor Antony Flew’, 13 April 2010. Part of this article reads:

Professor Antony Flew, the rationalist philosopher who died on April 8 aged 87, spent much of his life denying the existence of God until, in 2004, he dramatically changed his mind.

Flew always described himself as a “negative atheist”, asserting that “theological propositions can neither be verified nor falsified by experience”, a position he expounded in his classic paper Theology and Falsification (1950), reputedly the most frequently-quoted philosophical publication of the second half of the 20th century….

Flew was the author of some 23 works of philosophy, including God and Philosophy (1966), Evolutionary Ethics (1967), An Introduction to Western Philosophy (1971), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), A Rational Animal (1978), Darwinian Evolution (1984), Atheistic Humanism (1993) and Philosophical Essays of Antony Flew (1997).

Flew’s volte-face on the existence of God was all the more remarkable given the volume of his writing in the atheistic cause and his vehement denial of internet rumours in 2001 that he had renounced his atheism. His response was entitled Sorry To Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist! In 2007, however, he was able to publish There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind.

He was at various times a vice-president of the Rationalist Press Association, chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and a fellow of the Academy of Humanism. In addition to his permanent academic posts, he held several visiting professorships at universities around the world.

Antony Flew married, in 1952, Annis Harty; they had two daughters.

Did Antony Flew become an evangelical Christian?

I have not located any information that indicates he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour before his death. He remained a Deist. What is Deism? Church historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote of the Deists who were prominent in the 18th century:

Deism had many variations, but in general it held that there is a universal religion which is in accord with reason. All that is best in Christianity, so the Deists were prone to say, is older than Christianity and is completely in accord with reason. This universal, rational religion includes belief in God as the great Architect of the universe. He created the world, planted reason in man, gave him the moral law, and governs the universe by laws which are in accord with reason. God is to be revered and is to be honoured by a life which observes the moral law. Religious beliefs and practices which cannot be justified by reason, so the Deists went on to say, are superstitious and, being irrational, are to be rejected. Irrational superstitions have been imposed by priests of various religions (Latourette 1975:964).

Another has put its beliefs succinctly, stating that deism

as distinguished from theism, polytheism, and pantheism, does not designate a well-defined doctrine. In general, it refers to what can be called natural religion or the acceptance of a certain body of religious knowledge acquired solely by the use of reason, as opposed to knowledge gained through revelation or the teaching of a church (Macdonald 1984:304).

The Modern Deism website states:

Deism is a reason-based faith that postulates a belief in God through a foundation of Reason, Personal Experience and Nature (nature of the universe) with emphasis on freethought rather than a foundation of Divine revelation(s) and Holy texts. Essentially, through the use of Reason, God’s existence is revealed by the observation of nature and our own personal experiences.  For the Deist, the order and complexity found in nature coupled with our rational experiences of nature leads to a belief in God.

At the death of Antony Flew, it was reported,

Despite his exodus from atheism, Flew is believed to have remained simply a deist, believing in a god who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it….

New York Times Magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer expressed his doubts over Flew’s mental capacities after meeting up with him in England, suggesting that the once great philosopher had become a “blissfully unaware” old man “just following the evidence as it has been explained to him.”

“Depending on whom you ask, Antony Flew is either a true convert whose lifelong intellectual searchings finally brought him to God or a senescent scholar possibly being exploited by his associates,” he wrote.

Flew, however, released a statement rebutting the circulating allegations, saying that he would not have a book issued in his name that he does not 100 percent agree with.

“I needed someone to do the actual writing because I’m 84 and that was Roy Varghese’s role,” Flew stated. “The idea that someone manipulated me because I’m old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. That is my book and it represents my thinking” (Young 2010)

However, in his 2007 publication, he did make statements that indicated he was open to revelation from God and some positive statements about Christianity. These are a few samples:

  • ‘I have taken issue with many of the claims of divine revelation or intervention. My current position, however, is more open to at least certain of these claims. In point of fact, I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honored and respected whether or not its claim to be a divine revelation is true’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:185).
  • ‘Virtually all of the argument about the content of the religion [of Christianity] was produced by St. Paul, who had a brilliant philosophical mind and could both speak and write in all the relevant languages. If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:186).
  • In early editions of his book, God and Philosophy, he stated that ‘the occurrence of miracles cannot be known from historical evidence, and this discredits the claim that the resurrection can be known as a fact of history’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:186).
  • Then in his debates on the resurrection of Christ, he made three points: (1) The most recent documents for the alleged event were written some thirty or more years after it. There is no contemporary evidence—just documents written years afterwards’; (2) We have no way of checking whether the risen Jesus actually appeared to groups, since we only have a document alleging that these extraordinary events took place’; (3) ‘The evidence for the resurrection is very limited. In fact, the first New Testament documents on the resurrection were the Letters of Paul and not the Gospels, and these Letters have very little physical detail on the resurrection’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:186).
  • However, what was his view in 2007? He wrote, ‘Today, I would say the claim concerning the resurrection is more impressive than any by the religious competition. I still believe that when historians professionally are looking for evidence, they surely need much more than what is available. They need evidence of a different kind’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:187).
  • What about atheism? Flew’s view in 2007 was: ‘If they want to discourage belief in God, the popularizers must furnish arguments in support of their own atheistic views. Today’s atheist evangelists hardly even try to argue their case in this regard. Instead, they train their guns on well-known abused in the history of the major world religions. But the excesses and atrocities of organized religion have no bearing whatsoever on the existence of God, just as the threat of nuclear proliferation has no bearing on the question of whether E = mc2’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:xxiv).
  • Historian and scholar of Christian origins, Bishop N. T. Wright, responded to some of Flew’s issues with Christianity (Flew & Varghese 2007:187-213). Flew’s response was: ‘I am very much impressed with Bishop Wright’s approach, which is absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. This is enormously important, especially in the United Kingdom, where the Christian religion has virtually disappeared. It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful. Is it possible that there has been or can be divine revelation? As I said, you cannot limit the possibilities of omnipotence except to produce the logically impossible. Everything else is open to omnipotence’ (Flew & Varghese 2007:213, emphasis added).

Sadly, there is no evidence that Flew became a born again Christian. The evidence points to an awakening about the existence of God, but it had no more eternal impact than what James stated, ‘You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder’ (James 2:19 NIV). Without belief in the one Lord God Almighty, revealed in the Christian Scriptures, there can be no salvation. This is stated in Acts 4:10-12 (NIV):

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (emphasis added).

References

Flew, A with Varghese, R A 2007. There is no/a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist change his mind. New York: HarperOne.

Latourette, K S 1975. The history of Christianity: A. D. 1500 – A. D. 1975, vol 2. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Macdonald, M H 1984. Deism, in W A Elwell (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 304-305. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Young, E 2010. Renowned atheist-turned-deist Antony Flew dies at 87. The Christian Post, 15 April. Available at: http://www.christianpost.com/news/renowned-atheist-turned-deist-antony-flew-dies-at-87-44761/ (Accessed 30 October 2012).

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘William Lane Craig’, OzSpen #199, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7685885-20/ (Accessed 29 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., Apologetic Warrior #200.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #203.

[4] Ibid., Apologetic Warrior #202.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #204.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 June 2016.

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