Atheists believe in God – they just don’t believe in the devil

Agnostics are more honest than atheists.  Agnostics acknowledge that they do not know if there is a God, but atheists declare confidently that there is no God.

Does this mean that they have searched the Universe and concluded that there is no God to be found?  No – they have not searched the Universe.  Atheists arrive at their conclusion by reasoning.   It goes like this.

If God is all powerful and good, then why do evil and suffering exist?  Either it means that God is not all powerful or that He is not all good.  As evil and suffering exist, this proves that God does not exist.

No – it does not.  What it does prove is that atheists intuitively know that God must be both all powerful and all good.  They acknowledge in their reasoning that God cannot be one without the other.

For the more theologically literate, this is the modern, practical use of Anselm’s ontological argument.

The problem with this atheist reasoning is that the atheist does not believe in the devil as the source of evil.  They blame God for the devil’s work.  A simple mistake in their reasoning.

It also shows the limitations of rationalism.  Reason is not sufficient to prove something but only to test a proof.  The reason for this is that one’s reasoning is not infallible, and one can make a mistake at any stage in one’s reasoning, just as the atheist has done above.  So reason cannot prove that there is no God; it can only be used to check if a proof holds water.  Some things are too high for reason to explain or understand.  Reason is a useful tool, but it is not sufficient.  Some things are above reason and some things are against reason.  One should not be confused for the other.

Denial and post-truth – the real problem with faith

The film Denial has been recently released in British cinemas after its premier at the Toronto film festival on ‘9/11’ last year and its UK premier on Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January 2017.  It gives the outline of the libel trial brought by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for her calling him a falsifier of history in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

Denial (2016 film).jpg

The UK judge found Irving to be a Holocaust denier, an antisemite and a racist who had deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence, and ordered him to pay more than £2m in legal costs.

There are many issues raised by the libel case, and many have commented on the timely recollection of it in view of false-truth and its spread through social media.  Historian Richard Evans, president of Wolfson College in Cambridge and involved in the research behind the trial, draws parallels between Nazi propaganda and our era of ‘alternative facts’.

False-truth is the end result of a generation of spin and of acceptance of lies in public life, particularly in the political process.  Eventually it reached a tipping-point and it is now the norm.

One can understand people changing their mind when circumstances change, but this has developed into saying one thing and doing another in public life.  The backlash against the ready acceptance of this behaviour has resulted in the popular revolt against ‘the establishment’ in its various forms.

However Denial finishes by raising another question which is not addressed and needs to be addressed.  It ends with David Irving continuing to deny the Holocaust when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight.

Why do people not change their beliefs, or rather hold on to their beliefs?  This is the real issue raised both in Denial and in much current public debate.  Richard Dawkins frames the issue the wrong way round.  He says that people adopt their beliefs when they are young from their parents and teachers.  There is nothing surprising about this, although he uses this to buffet religion and to accuse parents of child abuse.  Rather, the really surprising thing is, not that children adopt the religion of their parents but, why they rarely change it.

This psychological prejudice is so common to the human condition that it merits more study and comment in public life.

However it is A-B-C to those Christian preachers who spend much of their time explaining the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who taught the need and difficulty in changing people’s beliefs.  He taught that it was so difficult that when it came to true religion it needed nothing short of the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit of God – this is what Jesus meant by ‘you must be born again’.  Human prejudice is too strong to change from the outside; it must come from personal awakening, personal conviction.

Government tries strong arm tactics using the law and sanctions to force conformity to its secular morality, but ‘he that complies against his will is of his own opinion still’.  In addition, there are not enough law enforcement officers to be effective, as the police are discovering with paedophiles now numbering in the hundreds of thousands, more than the immigrants coming into the UK, and the justice system cannot cope with the number of law-breakers of the growing number of laws.

Law enforces conformity through sanctions, but the Christian Gospel of love gives motivation to keep the law, is cheap and effective through the self-policing Christian conscience, as well as giving peace of conscience for daily living.  Try it – it begins with changing your beliefs about Jesus Christ.

To see ourselves as others see us

I have just received this birthday card from one of my younger sisters:

Gaelic proverb: A friend’s eye is a good mirror

Or to use the language of our Scottish bard, Robert ‘Rabbi’ Burns, in his poem To A Louse:
On Seeing One On A Lady’s Bonnet, At Church, 1786
.

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”

Obama gives a lead to Trump

There has been much media coverage of Donald Trump’s use of social media and mis-calling main stream media.

Let us remember that it was Obama who used social media to galvanise support for his successful campaign to reach the White House. It looks like sour grapes to complain that Donald Trump did the same.

“President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House,” wrote Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen in February 2013.

The Week 2/3/2013 carries an article How Obama keeps the press at bay that states: “the White House has strongly cut back reporters’ access to the president, while exploiting social media and other new technologies to ruthlessly control its message.  The White House press corps is now denied direct access to Obama, his cabinet or other top officials.  Months go by without a real press conference.  The administration, meanwhile, churns out plenty of flattering ‘content’ of its own – photos, social media messages and interviews with naive journalists – feeding hungry TV stations and websites.”

Feb 2013 Obama the puppet master

30 Nov 2013 Editorial – Obama administration works hard to keep press at bay

29 Mar 2016 Obama’s hypocritical journalism lecture

 

What is Islamic Reformation?

Tonight, 14 Feb 2017, BBC Newsnight’s Viewsnight carried an opinion that Islamic State is a Reformation in islam.

Canadian author Graeme Wood compared the similarities of the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) with the Protestant Reformation under Martin Luther, pointing to 1. the call to return to the original sources (the Bible and Quran) to read it for oneself, bypassing the priestly class and mainstream clerics, giving back power to the people, and 2. using the latest technology to appeal to the masses against officialdom (the printing press in the 16th century and the internet and social media in the 21st century).

Thus Islamic State (ISIS) was compared to the Protestant Reformation, an intellectual convulsion that is re-making the muslim world, calling muslims back to the original sources in the Quran. He called them Islamic Protestants.

However, Wood makes an important mistake. He pointed out that the Protestant Reformation led to a bloodbath, and so has ISIS, as if there was not only moral equivalence but also causative equivalence between the two. He failed to point out that the bloodbath at the Protestant Reformation was at the hands of officialdom, but the bloodbath by ISIS is at the hands of conservative muslims against officialdom – an important difference.

It is astonishing that this mistaken historical perspective is so easily publicised on national television.

Rather, Islamic State is the death-throes of koranic islam as it feels threatened by more rational islamic voices interacting with the love and toleration of Christianity. The islamic reformation is on the other foot and began many decades ago. Salman Rushdie’s Islamic Verses was a challenge to the authenticity of certain verses in the Quran. This led to a fatwah against him. Interaction with western civilisation over several decades has diminished islamic attachment to the details of koranic teaching, so that westernised islam distances itself from the blood-thirsty teaching in the koran.

ISIS is actually a bloody Counter-Reformation to moderating and reforming muslim teachers, comparable to the 16th century Roman Catholic bloody Counter-Reformation with its Inquisition and manipulation of the authorities to do its dirty work for it.  It is not comparable to the liberating Protestant Reformers who gave to the world modern Parliamentary democracy, the right of private judgment and the freedom of thought and religion.

Addendum:
15/2/2017: Tariq Ramadan gave another perspective on Viewsnight tonight in which he contradicted Wood’s view and claimed that quiet reform is already happening among muslims, who “are trying to liberate themselves from both Arab and Asian patriarchy and Western cultural imperialism.” At least it confirms to some extent what I have written above.

Seven Testimonies to the Person, life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ

The three Synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke give us three independent accounts of the Person, life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are called synoptic because they are so similar to each other. Why does God’s Holy Spirit give us three similar accounts? There are many reasons, but not least is to demonstrate that the story of the life of Christ is not simply one man’s fantasy story about an imaginary miracle worker, but being separately documented by three independent writers the reality of His Person and work is demonstrated.

The fourth account of the life of Christ is a more theological treatment of His Person and teaching, explaining the meaning of His death and resurrection by His close friend and acquaintance, the apostle John. John continues the story after His resurrection with the glorious scenes in the book of Revelation. In his three epistles he gives us the ethos of Christianity – love – as he learned it directly from the lips of Jesus Christ.

The fifth testimony to Christ is by the apostle Paul, who bore testimony to the risen, exalted and glorified Christ by his remarkable conversion on the road to Damascus, recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, both historically and from the lips of Paul himself. Paul’s remarkable conversion from persecutor of Christians to the foremost apostle of Christ confounded his critics, and his faithful and zealous life of Christian service testifies to the reality of the risen Lord. If anyone would know if Christ’s dead body had been stolen, it would be Paul. Instead he preached boldly the resurrection of Christ and the doctrines which flow naturally from so important a fact.

The sixth account is by the prophet Isaiah whose prophecy, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, describes most vividly and theologically the meaning of Christ’s atoning death – to such an extent that it has been called the fifth Gospel. The account in Isaiah 52:14-53:12 is a graphic account of Christ’s death with a theological explanation of its atoning purpose and achievement.

The seventh testimony is the whole Old Testament record, which foretells and explains the Person, life and work of Christ, showing that the Saviour Whom God would send into this world is both divine and human – the Son of God and the Son of man.

‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift’ 2Cor 9:15.

‘For the wages due to sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ Rom 6:23.

Another pioneer dies – leaving an honourable, global and on-going legacy

On the day of John Glenn’s funeral, another pioneer died.

John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, restored American prestige in 1962 when it seemed that the Soviet Union was moving ahead in the space race.

A lesser known pioneer died today, aged 96 years old. However, his name is known to every medical doctor in the world, and by most health service personnel. He is US doctor Henry J.Heimlich, who popularised the manoeuvre used to help victims of choking. Countless numbers of people have been saved from unnecessary death by his pioneering technique, co-developed with Dr. Edward A.Patrick, whose name is not as celebrated.

Rather than describing the technique, you may be able to see it in action in this extraordinary video recorded on a US motor cop’s dashcam (a camera mounted on the dashboard of a car) – if bt.com restore the link! The picture shows the traffic policeman doing the manoeuvre on the choking woman, which dislodged the food from her throat.

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Heimlich used the technique himself this year in his retirement home.

Henry Heimlich: wikipedia entry