I am a 'new' follower of Christ - barely 2 years into Jesus - and found your site while perusing other apologetics sites. I am also in an apologetics course at my church (a 4.5 point Calvinist Baptist denomination!)

I don't know what that means?

John Calvin was part of the Reformation period in the Protestant church. He 'coined' a doctrine subsequently called 'Calvinism' that has 5 points related to the theology of the church. There is much disagreement in the Christian community about one point in particular (election vs. free will) - my church doesn't completely agree with all the detail as Calvin penned it, thus, the 4.5 point delineation, actually my own verbiage. Read up on Calvinism for all the 'gory' details if you're interested! :)

and since you seemed amenable to questions from just about anyone, I thought I would ask you a couple.. kind of 'testing' what we're learning in this course. I read your biography and I certainly understand how disillusioned with God an ex-Mormon has the potential to become - I know many in your shoes. I would loosely 'classify' myself as someone who lived an atheistic lifestyle for 35+ years, grew up in the Catholic church, VERY disillusioned with the whole 'god' thing myself.

Since Catholics are theists, I find this confusing. If I understand you correctly, I think living as if there is no god while believing there is one is different from living as if this is no god while considering it impossible for there to be a god.

I lived as if there were no God (immorally and selfishly) and didn't believe there could be one either... went to church every Sunday with my Dad and siblings though... but just cause they 'made' me!! As an adult, I considered myself more of an agnostic than an atheist. Which brings me back to my original question of you: How can one be an 'atheist'? There is no way for a person to say it is impossible for there to be a god unless that person 'was' god... only a 'supreme being' could be that absolute and know for certain... does that make sense? I don't believe you answered that in your original note to me.

As I understand it (and please feel free to correct my inaccuracies - I am in a learning mode!) - 'atheism' is knowing for certain that there is no god, as opposed to 'agnosticism' which holds that there may be one, but not in my own personal experience. From that, I question, since there is NO one that has universal knowledge of *all* things, except 'for' God, in stating that there is NO God, one must BE God. Doesn't that contradict an atheist stance? Isn't it quite possible that my God's existence lies outside of your realm of knowledge? Wouldn't one then be more agnostic than atheistic?

There are different definitions for the term "god". One is "that which is other than" for example...god is a spirit; or "creator, sustainer, destroyer" or the definition often called the philosopher's god...god as first cause. Such definitions do not include omniscience, or necessarily omni-anything. To deny god exists is to recognize that avenues to being do not require a directing intelligence.

You can certainly argue, as Dr. Phillip Johnson for example, that a creator is necessary. I have placed some links on my page that offer a different view, that the places god and souls have traditionally fit do not need god or souls to work, are backed up. If you do argue for a creator you are merely reinforcing the view of the philosophers, a first cause is required. That first cause god is a far cry from the Judeo-Muslim-Christian conception of an omni-etc. god.

I don't need to 'argue' for anything... I have the lived experience of how God transforms lives. He did it in me AND I see it all around me daily in my work and in His creation. Most of my doubts about God's existence have been answered by some of the greatest minds God has created.. I continue to have questions and will continue to seek answers. God expects that of all of us... He WANTS to be tested; His truth bears out over and over and over!! There has been NO book debated, critiqued, maligned, and LOVED in the last 2000 years like the Bible has been... and NO ONE has been able to 'bring it down'. History, archaeology, manuscript validation, prophecy, and statistical probability... they continue to validate this book - doesn't that hold any substance for you??

The definition of god is prime mover or first cause, omniscience doesn't play into it as far as I'm concerned. Since the origin of the universe is mathematically possible with purely natural causes, since the origin of life and its evolution is understood and seen in fossils, since organic molecules have been detected in deep space, since the probable precursors to the molecules of life have been seen in fossils, in short, since there is ample evidence that "life, the universe, and everything" has a natural cause with no need for spiritual super-natural mediation...why bother with a superspirit? The definition of god as prime mover is seen to be without merit.

If I were to use a more Christianized definition of god then I would say if god isn't in the 0.000000001% of the universe I've looked in, maybe it's in the 99.999999999% I haven't looked in. But if he's not in the 0.000000001% of the universe I have access to, it isn't an omnipresent god. Maybe the other omni- claims aren't so either...like omniscient. And if god isn't omniscient then I don't have to be omniscient to disbelieve, I only have to see that no real evidence exists for a god, which is what I said above.

What does 'avenues to being do not require a directing intelligence' mean??? That 'poof' one day we were here for no good reason and our complex human-ness (biologically and emotionally) was just happenstance and random??

Yeah...

God(s) are not needed so why believe or worship.

That statement reeks of such 'hopelessness', Ed. Look outside your window and marvel at the beauty of nature (tidal ebb and flow, flower pollination, child birth!) and (as the healthcare professional I am!!) the exquisite way homeostasis keeps our bodies in perfect hormonal balance, the way our blood coagulates, and the way skin heals. All so very complex.. NONE of which could happen just 'by accident'! I am sorry you were so very disillusioned with God as a result of your past experiences...

This exchange was followed by a couple more letters. The URLs are listed but not linked.

Hello again Ed... something for you to read here, be very interested in your comments.

http://members.aol.com/twarren10/create.html

I have seen these arguments in various places before. He starts off by saying he is presenting "a good biblical apologetic" against evolution and for creationism. So, if you believe in the Biblical story already you can continue to believe the Biblical story based on his writing. But if you look outside his writing you'll have a great deal of difficulty fitting what he says is real to what is real.

Young-earth creationist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati in his "Refuting Evolution" says the "true" creationist model is an "orchard" of divergence from original forms not a "lawn" of unchanged forms since creation (pp.38-39). So Dr. Sarfati has seen evidence of evolution even though Mr. Fok has not. Michael Behe sees evolution happening (as far as I understand the Black Box argument) but sees a point where irreducible complexity is reached...a point where a creator must enter...but that point occurs in the distant past before any evolution occurred and evolution, Behe says (again, as far as I understand the black box argument), is evident. So some creationists see evidence for evolution even though your author denies such evidence exists.

There are files I've linked to Talk.Origins Archive in my apologetic section which discuss the fossil record evidence that Mr. Fok denies. The file you sent a link for also tries to present Biblical Creationism as an alternative. If the Bible were reliable as history his argument may be worth hearing. But since it's not reliable as a history of Israel or of history generally why think it reliable as a history of "creation"? There is plenty of information available in encyclopedias about the age of the earth: multiple layers of geologic strata for example; the Egyptian empire; pre-historic cultures...all of which undermines the Biblical story. You can either believe the Bible or you can look at the broad scope of history and believe that but you can't hold both to be believable.

I can't get through Darwin. But then, I can't get through...oh, heck who's that guy that wrote Pickwickians and A Christmas Carol? Anyway, he's supposed to be a great author but he bores me silly. I'm a hard-headed rationalist and I admit it. I can't handle all that flowery over worded writing. I can't read the Quran either.

Is there any particular section you wanted me to read or comment on?

Thanks Ed for your response....the one thing that jumped out to me in your reply was:

>If the Bible were reliable as history his argument may be worth hearing. But since it's not reliable as a history of Israel or of history generally why think it reliable as a history of "creation"?
In one of my previous notes to you I said:
"There has been NO book debated, critiqued, maligned, and LOVED in the last 2000 years like the Bible has been... and NO ONE has been able to 'bring it down'. History, archaeology, manuscript validation, prophecy, and statistical probability... they continue to validate this book - doesn't that hold any substance for you??"
To which you didn't respond.... probably because I asked so many questions... :) To that end I have attached some more information for you on Biblical reliability, historicity, and authenticity. Again - I look forward to your response!!

The attachment came from the Christian Research Institute, the address for the document is provided here:

http://www.equip.org/free/DB011.htm

Mr. Hanegraaff loves memory devices, doesn't he? The title of his "FACE that proves the FARCE of Evolution" is a memory device too. Anyway...

Under "Manuscripts" he uses the acronym BEE to show the "reliability of the extant manuscript copies of the original documents". B for bibliographic: 14,000 MS from as early as the the 5th century BCE about events supposedly 45 centuries earlier much of it claimed to have been written by Moses in the 13th century BCE. Kind of a long time either way you look at it, I'd say. But there are lots of them. At any rate, that time period certainly allows a degree of incredulity to the first "e": eyewitness. Under eyewitness he writes a bit more about the N.T. I have no idea how many copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead have been recovered, or of the Mahabharata, or of the Illiad. These stories were by eyewitnesses, or interviews with eyewitnesses, too. I don't believe the Illiad's stories about rivers diverting their flows to aid battles or of cloaks of invisibility. Maybe there are lots of these MS too. I don't think Mr. Hanegraaff would pray to Zeus or Krishna just to be safe whatever the number of MS.

The number of MS and the divergence in content and style of them is part of the "New Criticism" of the Bible. If you're going to rely on these numbers then you're going to have to take the analysis of them too. The Jesus Seminar formed their criticism that is pretty far from the evengelical norm. I've listed some other books and sites on my web page at:

http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ebrownle2/h.html

also see:

http://www.refutingmissionaries.org/

for a Judaic response to Christianity's claims.

The second "e" is external evidence. Recently, NBC aired an hour long infomercial on Sodom and Gamorah and the search for it in the Dead Sea. The star of the show said several times that the O.T.'s archaeology doesn't have a good track record. Besides him, I have a couple of links from reputible sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/bible991029.html

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2001/02/07/solomon/index.html

both articles on Biblical archaeology in general.

Also, in general, Mr. Hanegraaff seems to think the Bible can lend credibility to itself. He writes that "the Bible affirms the eyewitness credibility of its writers" and again that the Bible "assumes its historical accuracy". He's happy to quote "direct references to Jesus" as if the authors of those references met and spoke to Jesus. In fact, these references in Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius only mean that second and early first century C.E. Christians thought Jesus was Christ. That's a long way from confirming Jesus' resurrection like an eyewitness. That's a long way from reliable.

Archaeology...if my links are still live is discussed above.

Prophecy...predictive ability. I have a good link for that too.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_lippard/fabulous-prophecies.html

Statistics? He presumes "the authenticity and historicity of the texts" in forming this argument. Since that presumption is based on his previous alliteration, and since those letters are not proof of anything, his statistical argument is seen to be unreliable.

My page's point is this: if you can't find a good reason to believe you have a soulish thing in you, then why believe that you do? That doesn't mean you should get all depressed about how the end of your life really is the end of your life...my reaction is the opposite. And if you can't find a need for a first-cause creator (and one isn't needed) then why torture yourself by acting like you believe it? That doesn't mean start acting like a sociopath who needs the threat of hell to be civil. Again, my reaction is the opposite.

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