Thursday, March 31, 2011

Philosophical Atheism

For the past 15 years I have rested comfortably in my faith holding to facts and convictions that supported the Scriptures. In January of 1996 I responded to an article that attacked Christianity on 16 points by writing a 100 page booklet. I then used this booklet to teach a couple of classes. Challenges of skeptics, atheists and evolution were resolved in my mind. Eventually, I lost interest in debating the topic.

Both atheism and humanism lost ground in the later 1900's. Even Antony Flew, the champion of atheism who debated C.S. Lewis, renounced atheism in favor of deism. Now, with the emergence of the new-atheist, who are emboldened by men like Richard Dawkins, atheism and humanism are attempting to make a comeback. I have been drawn back into the debate and have began reading some of their books. Yesterday I told my wife that I felt compelled to research and write a book in the next few months to address atheism's new strategies. This book would also speak to some of the other issues that can be addressed with apologetic evidence. I am now continuing to read and decide if I really want to extend the effort debating and researching something I could quickly loose interest in. There are already many very good sources available, yet it would be interesting to search out and address all the skeptic's questions and challenges. I know I would sleep better if I did.

One book I have been reading again is Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity. In chapter fourteen he discusses atheism's scientific methodology. There is a bias in science towards materialism and naturalism which is understandable on one level, but very dangerous on the other. This materialism manifests itself in two forms of atheistic science. One form is acceptable and necessary. The other is an ideology and a religion.

D'Souza calls the first type procedural or methodological atheism because it means that scientists go about their work presuming that we live in a natural, material world. Which, of course, is true. These scientist are not looking for God nor are they going to resolve difficult problems by saying, "Well, then this must have been a miracle or supernatural intervention." None of us want our scientists, doctors or, even, our car mechanics to give us an answer that sounds like that. We want facts. So, science uses the materialistic and natural scientific methodology. These scientists are not saying there is no God, there is no supernatural, or there is no soul. They are simply saying the scientific method does not measure these areas. So, we do not comment on those areas.

The second form of atheism is philosophical atheism. These scientist believe "that material and natural reality is all that exists. Everything else must be illusory." They hold to the conviction that because God cannot be measured or proven with an experiment then there is no way of discovering God. They tend to present their views as if one of their greatest discoveries was the discovery of not finding God. Thus, there is no God and anyone who says differently is unscientific and ignorant according to their doctrine.

D'Souza writes:
If you were to ask a scientist, "Why is that water boiling?" he or she would answer in terms of molecules and temperatures. But there is a second explanation: the water is boiling because I want to have a cup of tea. This second explanation is a perfectly valid description of reality, yet it is ignored or avoided by the scientific account. The reason for this is that science is incapable of answering questions about the nature or purpose of reality.

Philosophical atheism is narrowly dogmatic because it closes itself off from knowledge that does not conform to materialism and naturalism. . . By contrast, the theist is much more open-minded and reasonable. The theist does not deny the validity of scientific reasoning. On the contrary, the theist is constantly reasoning in this way in work and life. The theist is entirely willing to acknowledge material and natural causes for events, but he also admits the possibility of other types of knowledge.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The People Who Know Their God Will Firmly Resist Him

Writing prophetically in 536 BC of events that would occur in 168 BC, Daniel says,
"With flattery he (Antiochus Epiphanes IV) will corrupt those who have violated the covenant (Jews who followed the ways of worldly Hellenism and liberal scholarship), but the people who know their God will firmly resist him."
This was a time when the world powers of Syria and the Seleucid kings in the North plus Egypt and the Ptolemies in the South pressed Judah for taxes, political support and cultural conformity. These demands of politics and society eventually crossed a line that forced the Jews to compromise their commitment to the Lord who was their creator and savior.

Those that "know their God" found an inner strength, or commitment, to hold to the Truth. This strength resulted in action. Knowledge of God will produce an inner resolve which will lead to corresponding action such as Godly decisions and deeds. Knowledge leads to understanding which produces the wisdom to act in line with the truth.

The New American Standard translation reads:
"And by smooth words he (Antiochus) will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will
display strength
and take action."
The English Standard Version reads:
"He (Antiochus) shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action."
If the Ptolemies or the Selucid kings were allowed to define God for the people then religion would have had no reason to resist politics. Or, if the people accepted the knowledge of God as taught by the liberal scholars of the day there would not have been a conflict. There would have been no display of strength, nothing to stand firm on and, most importantly, no reason to take action or to resist.

If you are not taking some kind of action, then you probably do not know God. If you are not resisting at some level, then you probably do not know God as well as you would like to think.

(The image on the coin above is that of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.)

Friday, March 11, 2011


I am reading through Calvinistic book after Calvinistic book (Boettner, Sproul, Palmer, Steele, Thomas, Brown, Stewart, and more). At moments their use of Bible verses present a possible theological basis, or, at least, until I examine the context and the words, and then, compare their theological conclusions with the whole of scripture. Now, after having read through Palmer's presentation in his "Study Guide" of Calvinism's five points, Palmer has finely had to address the ever looming Calvinistic contradiction. In chapter five Palmer pretends to convincingly speak to his Calvinistic-wannabe-students about the contradiction Calvinism creates when it inflates God's sovereignty to radical proportions by making God responsible for everything (including sin), while at the same time attempting to maintain some level of scriptural integrity concerning man's personal responsibility. Palmer writes:
Calvinist accepts both sides of the antinomy. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous. It is simply impossible for man to harmonize these two sets of data. To say on the one hand that God has made certain all that ever happens, and yet to say that man is responsible for what he does? Nonsense! It must be one or the other, but not both. To say that God foreordains the sin of Judas, and yet Judas is to blame? Foolishness!...The Calvinist freely admits that his position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish. This is in accord with Paul, who said, "The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. (1 Cor. 1:18)"
This is unbelievable. Palmer takes the student through five twisted points of Calvinism and then when faced with the gigantic stumbling stone of contradiction, he embraces it by pretending to defend his illogical theology by quoting the Apostle Paul with a verse that has nothing to do with the contradiction created between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. By using 1 Corinthians 1:18, Palmer attempts to paint a clear contradiction into a divine mystery. Palmer is doing what the third commandment was forbidding when it commands us not to take the name of the Lord in vain.

The message of the cross that Paul was talking about as being foolish concerned teaching that salvation might be attained through the crucifixion of a Jewish man by the Romans. That message just didn't sell very well in the Corinthian philosophical circles rich with brilliant debates and highly trained rhetoricians. Paul was not talking about Calvinism. If Palmer has such a great case to present to his students in his "Study Guide" then he needs to hit this contradiction a little more truthfully.

Galyn Wiemers
Generation Word

My Opinion: Countering the First Four Points

My opinion differs with Calvinism, moderate Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism on these four points. Also, these four points reject the first four of the Calvinist's five points of TULIP. I believe that:
  1. Man does have a choice concerning his salvation
  2. Man is regenerated after he places faith in Jesus Christ
  3. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world
  4. Man can resist the Holy Spirit and commit the unforgivable sin by rejecting the
    convicting work of the Holy Spirit 
If you read that and think, "So, what is the big deal? Doesn't every orthodox Christian believe this?" Well, then you need to read these statements by leading Calvinistic author Edwin H. Palmer. I disagree with these statements made by Palmer which are also supported by other Calvinistic authorities:
  1. "Divine election means that God chooses some to go to heaven. Others are passed by and they will go to hell (p. 31)...If men are totally depraved and if some are still saved, then it is obvious that the reason some are saved and some are lost rests entirely with God (p.33)...The Christian has no free will either. He may technically have the external option to choose or reject Christ, but basically he does not. Christ will not let him reject him." (Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 43
  2. "Only when the Holy Spirit regenerates man and makes him alive spiritually can man have faith in Christ and be saved.(p. 33)...Once he is born again, he can for the first time turn to Jesus, expressing sorrow for his sins and asking Jesus to save him." (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 23)
  3. "It was just because the Father had given some people to Jesus that Jesus came to earth to die for them. Jesus had a definite, precise goal in mind...His purpose was not to die indefinitely for everybody in the world (p. 54)...Because Judas would not believe on Christ, he is in hell under the curse of the law. Christ did not die for evangelist cannot say to his audience, 'Christ died for you,'...If the Bible says that Christ died for the elect, then an evangelist may not play God by stating that he knows that everyone in his audience is elect and, therefore, that Christ died for them. He does not know and should not state it." (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 64)
  4. "God loves certain ones, sends Jesus to die for them, and then sends his Holy Spirit to cause them to accept the sacrifice that Christ has made for them (p. 68)...God sends his Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people so that they will definitely and certainly be changed from evil to good people. It means that the Holy Spirit will certainly - without any and's, if's , and but's - cause everyone whom God has chosen from eternity and for whom Christ died to believe on Jesus (p. 69)...God regenerates the man, changes his nature, and radically alters his character so that man now is truly sorry for his sin and loves God...So believe. God commands you to. But if you do, thank God for causing you to do so. (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 79)
I disagree with these last four points made up of Palmer's Calvinistic statements.
      Galyn Wiemers
      Generation Word

      Sunday, March 6, 2011

      Athanasius' Quote Before Augustine

      One of the debates in defense or rebuke of Calvinism is provided by the teaching and writing of the church during the first four centuries before Augustine. By 400 AD Augustine was writing theology that would effect Church doctrine for the rest of time. Much of his writing was responsible for the dark ages and false teaching that would follow. Augustine understood predestination and total depravity the way Calvin would 1,100 years later. They taught that man had lost his ability to respond positively to the gospel with his own free will. Augustine, like Calvin, taught that man had to be changed by God first before man would accept the gospel. In this line thinking certain men were predestined in eternity past to be forcefully saved by God with no help from the will of man.

      The question is: What did the church teach and believe about free will before Augustine added his philosophic corruptions into Christian theology? One quote I taught this last week as we went through church history was a quote by Athanasius from around 353. Athanasius was the theological hero of the Council of Nicea in 325. He had been one of the few who stood against Arian and his false teaching that the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, had been a created being. Athanasius convinced the Council of Nicea that Jesus was eternal, the ever existing Son of God. Athanasius won the day and we hold to this teaching yet today.

      Constantine had Christianized the Roman Empire. After Constantine died in 353 AD his sons (Constantine II, Constans and Constantius) killed hundreds of their father's offspring to secure the throne. Then Constans slew Constantine II. Constans was killed in battle which left Constantius the sole ruler of the Christian Roman Empire (Byzantine). Constantius proceeded to pillage and destroy the Pagan temples and gave the booty to the church.

      This was the beginning of the Christian state government which forced its will and rule on all people. Christianity had not only been made a legal religion, but had now become the only option. It was in this militant Christian state fifty years before Augustine that Athanasius wrote the following to rebuke Constantius and his violent oppression of man's free will to respond to the gospel:
      “Satan, because there is no truth in him, breaks in with axe and sword. But the Savior is gentle, and forces no one, to whom he comes, but knocks and speaks to the soul . . . If we open to him, he enters; but if we will not, he departs. For the truth is not preached by sword and dungeon, by might of an army, but by persuasion and exhortation. How can there be persuasion where fear of the emperor is uppermost? How exhortation, where the contradicter has to expect banishment and death?”
      It appears that Athanasius, who was very familiar with the writings of the Apostle Paul, did not feel that the Scriptures supported the concept of a total depravity that destroyed man's ability to hear the Savior knocking. It appears that Athanasius, who had correctly defended the deity of Jesus Christ, understood that man had the ability to reject the offer of salvation. There is no hint of Augustine's or Calvin's warped teaching in Athanasius' writing and no support of the Calvinistic concept assigned to Paul's writing about the sin nature of man and God's predestination.

      As I have time I will continue to post comments from the early church that reveal their views of Paul's writings before theology was corrupted by Augustine.

      Galyn Wiemers
      Generation Word

      Thursday, March 3, 2011

      If You Understand, Its Probably Not True!...What?

      R.C. Sproul writes in the first line of his forward to Craig R. Brown's book The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism:
      Any system of doctrine that attempts in the slightest degree to be faithful to Scripture will be difficult to understand.
      Indeed, Paul writes to the Corinthians that "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age" (1 Cor. 2:6). But, that does not mean it has to be filled with paradigms, contradictions and illogical conclusions to be glorious. Paul's message was built on the foundation of the knowledge of Jesus Christ that Paul discusses earlier in chapter two of First Corinthians when he says, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

      Sproul goes on to say:
      I would be suspicious of any doctrinal system I could thoroughly grasp with ease. 
      Sproul says this because he is talking about introducing and defending Calvinism which he describes like this:
      Calvinism is certainly no easy system to is so counterintuitive and countercultural.
      Is "counterintuitive" another word for illogical? Is "countercultural" a recognition that universal morality and justice are ripped out of reality by Calvinism?

      Galyn Wiemers
      Generation Word

      I Do Not Even Understand This Stuff !!??

      I received three more books in the mail today supporting Calvinism and ordered one more. The three I added to my Calvinistic library were  
      • Letters to a Young Calvinist by Smith,  
      • Young, Restless, Reformed by Hansen 
      • a new book suggested by Arminian Roger Olson, Ten Myths About Calvinism by Stewart. 
      My bibliography for my current research now stands at 45 books about Calvinism, not counting commentaries, histories and exegetical study tools.

      Today I began reading Craig R. Brown's book entitled The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism. It is a small, short book (126 pages) that explains the great dilemmas that challenge the logic and legitimacy of the Calvinistic doctrine. As I read through page after page of pro-Calvinistic theology and book after book by Calvinistic authors I keep running over these theological speed bumps that soon become concrete barriers. About the time I start thinking in agreement with these Calvinistic writers I suddenly find myself reading something that makes me think, "Whoa, how did they reach this conclusion?" or "What? That isn't even a logical thought progression!" In fact, I just read something in Brown's book that caused me to want to stop and write this blog.

      In chapter 3 (pages 43-53) Brown is answering the Calvinistic dilemma that concerns man's responsibility in a world that is totally controlled by a sovereign God. The dilemma is "how can man be held accountable for what he does" if God is causing everything man does. (Even as I write this I am thinking how ridiculous the concept is, but, even so, it is an issue the Calvinist repeatedly want to claim, defend, and give God all the glory for it.) Brown writes:
      God is sovereign and man is able to make choices for which he is responsible.
      What does Brown mean when he says "God is sovereign?
      He (God) determines everything that is going to happen." (p.45)
      Brown claims that this "so-called contradiction... is one of the fundamental truths of the Reformed faith." He also calls it "one of the highest mysteries of the Scriptures."

      Brown makes these statements:
      He (God) works behind the scenes from the beginning of time to plan and initiate everything that happens.
      If you decide right now to shut this book because you do not like what you are reading, you will be doing so of your own free will. No one will be forcing you to do it. Yet if you do it , it will be because God predetermined that you would.
       "Predetermined" that I would read this book? "Predetermined" that I would write this blog? "Predetermined" that I would ____________? The dictionary definition of "predetermine" is:
      1. set in advance; a preset plan of action; at a predetermined time
      2. fated, preordained, meant, doomed, foreordained 
      3. prearranged, set, agreed, set up, fixed
      4. determined in advance; to decide something in advance
      Do not confuse "foreknowledge" with "predetermination." Foreknowledge means to be aware of something before it happens or exists. Predetermination means to set something up in advance. It means God meant for it to happen. It means God prearranged it. He set it up. He fixed it. God determined or decided in advance that something should and would happen. Brown is saying that God predetermined in advance everything that has, is and will ever happen in the history of man!! Again, Brown says on page 45 that God "determines everything that is going to happen!" 

      At times I agree with Brown, for example, when he says:
      Human freedom is real, but it is everywhere limited by God's freedom.
      But, then he goes off on one of those mystical Calvinistic "glory be to God" utterances that leaves me needing the gift of interpretation to unravel this ecstatic statement of illogical praise:
      God is much greater than we can possibly imagine. A deity so powerful that He can allow His creatures to make free choices, yet determine from the foundation of time what those choices will be, leaves us in total awe. This truth should make us want to fall on our knees in total praise and submission to Him.
      I am sorry. But, "a deity so powerful" that my "free choices" have been determined "from the foundation of time" does not leave me "in total awe."  It leaves me thinking, "What the...?" It leaves me confused. It leaves me thinking, "I have no clue what is going on concerning reality, scripture, theology or God."

      Is it even logical to say God "can allow His creatures to make free choices, yet determine from the foundation of time what those choices will be." Is this not the same thing as saying God can make a square with only three sides? This has nothing to do with the power of God, the sovereignty of God or the praise of God. This is a twisted reality. This is a mockery of God's character and God's created universe.

      And then, as I read Brown's closing statements in this chapter I write in the margin of his book beside the paragraph quoted below, "I do not even understand this...":
      At the same time, this truth should bring tears of thankfulness to our eyes. It is nearly incomprehensible that a God this powerful loved you and me enough not only to choose us from the beginning of time, but also to work all things together for our good. Only an all-powerful God could do this. 
      How can we speak of God's love when multitudes are in hell because God predetermined it? How can we rejoice in God's love for us when it is based on a system the world calls fate? How can I, with a straight face, teach that individuals, churches, societies and nations will be held accountable to God in time and in eternity if their behavior is predetermined? It is not because the Calvinistic concept is so glorious that it is "incomprehensible," but because it is so filled with contradictions and so void of reality that it is "incomprehensible".

      I am trying, but I do not even understand this stuff!

      Galyn Wiemers
      Generation Word