Atheists in Heaven?

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The Trinity Review, no. 337, September/October, 2016, pp. 1-2,contained an article by Thomas W. Juodaitis titled, Antichrist’s Ecumenical Endeavors, “Evangelical” Enablers, and the Evisceration of the Protestant Reformation. In this article, Juodaitis shows how the Roman Catholic church is working to take over the Ecumenical Movement with the aim of returning Protestantism to the mother church (Catholicism).  Juodaitis quotes from an article by Michael Day titled, Pope Francis Assures Atheists:  You Don’t Have to Believe in God to Go to Heaven (cited in The Independent, September 11, 2013).
The quote from Pope Francis was made in the context of answering questions posed to him.  In an open letter responding to questions published by Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica, Francis wrote, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith.  I start by saying–and this is the fundamental thing–that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to  him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience…Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Any proposition or doctrine can be proven to be false by showing that it contradicts a plain passage of Scripture.  Here are a few Scriptures to compare with the statement of Francis.
1.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.
2.  Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
3.  Jesus remarked, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
4.  In the Great Commission recorded in Mark, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16).
5.  In John 3:18, Jesus said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
6.  In John 3:36, John records, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Let God be true and every man a liar! (Rom. 3:4).

 

 

There Is A God

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Anthony Flew made a remarkable switch from atheism to theism in 2004.  He wrote about his personal journey from atheism to theism in his book, There Is A God. This book is divided into two parts.  In Part One, Flew gives the background to the development of his atheistic views including insights into his home life and educational pursuits.  In Part Two, Flew describes his rational journey to theism by following the Socratic principle, “go where the evidence leads you.”  Flew followed the pathway of natural theology to belief in God. This is an interesting and intriguing book.  I have reveiwed this book on this website and you will find the review under Book Reviews on my home page.  Flew gives information concerning his previous views as an atheist and then reveals the men and their works that convinced him there is a God.

Unreasonable Doubt

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     The reasons for unbelief are varied and complex.  Whenever a person says that he or she does not believe in God, we wonder why?  Jim Spiegel explored some of the reasons for atheism that are not generally considered by most in a recent article in Christianity Today titled, “Unreasonable Doubt” (Christianity Today, Jan. 2011, p. 48).   Most of the time, atheists attempt to give rational explanations for their beliefs.  But, what about those who make irrational claims?  For instance, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have written The Grand Design in which they affirm that the cosmos was spontaneously generated “from nothing” with no God (or gods) required to make sense of existence. This is the height of irrationality!  It is irrational to affirm that everything in the universe came from nothing.  Nothing produces nothing.
     The apostle Paul states that these individuals are without excuse.  In Romans 1:20, he writes, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”   The phrase without excuse means that they have no defense (apologia).  They cannot make a rational defense of rejecting belief in God.  If it is irrational and indefensible to be an atheist, why be one?
In Psalm 14:1, the Holy Spirit declares, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”  Could the rejection of belief in God be rooted in corrupt and sinful behavior?  Consider Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  Some men suppress the truth by personal vices and immoral desires.
     There is a cognitive consequence to sin!  We emphasize that beliefs impact behavior, but behavior also impacts beliefs.  Our conduct affects the way we think.  Once we sin, we also attempt to justify our sin.  We can develop a belief system that will exonerate why we do the things we do.  The 20th century ethics philosopher Mortimer Adler (who was baptized when he was 81) confessed to rejecting religious commitment for most of his life because it “would require a radical change in my way of life, a basic alteration in the direction of my day-to-day choices as well as in the ultimate objectives to be sought or hoped for…The simple truth of the matter is that I did not wish to live up to being a genuinely religious person” (Christianity Today, p. 48).
     Disobedience hardens the heart.  Paul describes individuals who gave themselves over to work all manner of uncleanness because of  the blindness of their heart.  Hear his words in Ephesians 4:18-19, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”   The more a person gives himself/herself over to vice, the less reliable his or her belief formation will be.  Unbelief and disobedience go hand in hand.
     Many atheists are such not because of sound rational arguments, but because they do not want to conform their lives to God’s Will.  They are comfortable with conformity to this world.  The truth can set any person free from the psychological, emotional and behavioral problems that produce unbelief.  A powerful aspect of truth is the reality of God’s love for us and the sacrifice Jesus made to atone for our sins.  Truth and love are powerful weapons against atheism or any false belief.

Breaking The Grip of Atheism

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     In 2007, a book was published titled, There is A God–How The World’s Most Notorius  Atheist Changed His Mind.  It was written by Anthony Flew.  The book relates the significant change that Anthony Flew made from being an atheist to becoming a theist.  Flew did not convert to Christianity.  He did change his beliefs about God.  What factors led to the breaking of the grip of atheism on Flew’s mind?
     Flew was not always an atheist.  He was the son of a Methodist minister who lived and worked in Cambridge, England.  Early in his life, he questioned his father’s religion.  He makes an insightful statement, “never did I feel the slightest desire to commune with God” (p. 10).  He does not recall feeling any interest or enthusiasm for religious practices and issues.  He did not intellectually nor emotionally connect with the religious aspirations of his father.
     By the time he was 15, he considered himself to be an atheist.  By age 23, he was an atheist and a mortalist (he did not believe in life after death).  The so-called problem of evil disturbed him and formed his first basis of acceptance of atheism.  Though upon reflection, he states that he came to his conclusions about atheism much too early and without proper reflection.
     He attended Oxford University and studied Philosophy under Gilbert Ryle who was the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford (1947-1948).  He went on to win the prize in philosophy at Oxford–The John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy.  He then began a full-time teaching job at Oxford.
     Ryle introduced Flew to the Socratic principle:  “We must follow the argument wherever it leads” (p. 22).  This principle requires that every objection made person to person must also be met person to person.  This principle became a guiding influence in Flew’s personal life.
     The Socratic principle formed the inspiration of the Socratic Club at Oxford.  This club was a forum for lively debates.  C. S. Lewis was its president from 1942 to 1954 (12 years).  Many of the leading atheists at Oxford locked horns with Lewis and his fellow Christians. Flew had occasion to debate Lewis at Oxford.
     Flew was an avowed atheist for 66 years of his life.  In May, 2004, he announced at a symposium at New York University that he now accepted the existence of God.  He was 81 years old (born in 1923, an avowed atheist at age 15 and now 81).  What brought about the change?
     Flew’s journey to belief in God followed a pathway called Natural Theology (see Psalms 19:1-7; Rom. 1:19-21).  Flew considered the arguments from design and from cosmology to be the most convincing.  In Flew’s own words, “Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God.”  The first is the fact that nature obeys laws.  The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings which arose from matter.  The third is the very existence of nature.  Upon further consideration of each of these areas, Flew formulated three questions:  (1)  How did the laws of nature come to be? (p. 91);  (2) How did life as a phenomenon originate from non-life?; (3) How did the universe, by which we mean all that is physical, come into existence?
     Flew gives detailed answers to each of these questions.  The first question is answered in the following way, “The important point is not merely that there are regularities in nature, but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal, and “tied together.”  Einstein spoke of them as “reason incarnate” (p. 96).  The laws of nature are the thoughts of the  Mind of God.  A compelling argument would be that the world is so constructed as a suitable habitat for man that it must be that someone (God) knew we were coming!
     The second question is answered by Flew in the following manner.  “…biologists’ investigation of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved” (p. 123).  Questions that must be answered:  How does non-living matter produce living matter?  How do you explain the emergence from the very earliest life-forms which were incapable of reproducing themselves, of life-forms with a capacity for reproducing themselves?  How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and “coded chemistry” (DNA and RNA)? (p. 124).  These questions are not answered satisfactorily by evolutionists.  George Wald stated, “We choose to believe the impossible, that life arose spontaneously by chance” (p. 131).
     The third question is answered by Flew in the following fashion.  “How do you explain the existence of the universe?  Can something arise from nothing?  The answer is no.  The universe exists as a result of God’s existence. 
     Flew believes that God is “self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipresent, and omniscient” (p. 155).  At the time he wrote this book, he did not fully accept Christianity.  However, he includes two appendices in his book that take up the question of the existence of a human soul and the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
     This book is a devastating blow to atheism.  Flew takes on Richard Dawkins and other atheists and exposes the fallacy of their arguments.  Hopefully you will be honest enough to follow the arguments where they lead!

Alleged Contradictions

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     Recently, Dan Barker (atheist) debated Kyle Butt (theist) on the proposition, “Does the God of the Bible exist?”  The debate is available from Apologetics Press.org. on DVD.  When Barker began his remarks, he listed 14 alleged contradictions that he believed refuted the notion that the God of the Bible existed.  These alleged contradictions can be properly explained and have been many times, but they seem to trouble some people.
     Wayne Jackson in his new book, The Bible on Trial, discusses what  a contradiction is and then proceeds to show that many of the alleged contradictions in the Bible are no more than semantic problems, time problems, or people problems.  Jackson states, “When one is confronted with an alleged contradiction, he must ask himself these questions: (1) Is the same thing or person under consideration?  (2) Is the same time period in view? (3) Is the language that seems to be self-contradictory employed in the same sense?” (The Bible on Trial, 60).
     Jackson illustrates the problem by analyzing two statements: Robert is rich.  Robert is poor. “Do these statements contradict one another?  The answer is–not necessarily!  First, two different people named Robert could be under consideration.  Second, two different time frames might be in view; Robert could have been rich, but, due to financial disaster, he became poor.  Third, the terms “rich” and “poor” might have been used in different senses: Robert could be spiritually rich but economically poor.  The point is this: it never is proper to assume a contradiction exists until every possible means of harmonization has been fully exhausted” (The Bible on Trial, 61).
     For example, Kyle Butt dealt with one of the proposed contradictions made by Dan Barker.  Jesus said, “If Ibear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:31).  Jesus said, “…Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true:” (John 8:14).  The explanation for this alleged contradiction is easily made.  There is a special sense in which Jesus uses the word “true” (John 5:31).  He uses it in the Jewish legal sense that a matter can be established to be true in the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6).  This does not mean that the personal testimony of one was necessarily false.  It does mean that the legal minimum required to establish a matter to be true was at least two witnesses.  In John 5, Jesus gives five witnesses to His true identity as God’s Son and as Messiah (John the baptist, the miracles He did, His Father, the Scriptures and Moses)!  Of course, He told the truth about Himself as well.
     All skeptics of the Bible need to take note.  You cannot prove that the God of the Bible does not exist by using these alleged contradictions.

Evolution–A Hard Sell

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      A new poll released just in time for Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday found that only 39 percent of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” and just 24 percent of those who attend church weekly believe in that explanation for the development of life on Earth (Gallup poll of 1,018 American adults, Feb. 12, 2009, Fox News, www.foxnews.com).
     Thomas K. Grose in an article dated Feb. 12, 2009 (www.usnews.com) titled, “British Celebrate Charles Darwin but are Still Skeptical of Evolution” states, “Proud though Britian may be for having produced such a famous, pre-eminent, albeit controversial scientist, Darwin’s theory of evolution is a hard sell here–even though the United Kingdom is a rather secular society where church attendance has fallen to negligible numbers. A January ComRes poll taken for the religious think tank Theos found that 51 percent of Britons say that evolution alone can’t explain complex life, and 32 percent believe that life on Earth began within the past 10,000 years–a basic tenet of Creationism.”
     Why is it that, since 1859 when Darwin published On the Origin of the Species, the theory of evolution hasn’t been more persuasive?  The answer is that Darwinism is easily defeated on the basis of five important facts.
     First, the theory of evolution fails as an explanation for the origin of all things. The problem facing evolutionists is this: what existed to bring all things into existence?  Did everything come from nothing? (That would be logically absurd).  Or, did everything come from something?  In which case, that something would be eternal.  If not God (pure Spirit), then matter.  Science cannot prove that matter is eternal.  Instead science teaches us that the universe is running down (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) . Hence, evolutionists cannot prove their case.  The Bible affirms that God (eternal Spirit) created all things (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16).
     Second, the theory of evolution fails to explain the origin of life.  Evolutionists declare that all living things came from non-living things in contradiction to the law of biogenesis. The chances of this happening are astronomical.  Also, science has failed to duplicate spontaneous generation of life.  The Bible teaches that all liviing things come from a living God (Gen. 2:7). 
     Third, the theory of evolution cannot adequately explain the diversity and design of the universe. Evolutionists believe that mutations and natural selection, merely by chance, produced all of the diversity and design that we experience in the universe.  Most mutations are destructive to an organism not productive.  A living organism may adapt to its environment, but it will never change into another species of living creature.  Science proves limits to change whereas evolution theory affirms unlimited change that is design specific.  The Bible teaches that each living organism reproduces after its kind (Gen. 1:11; 1:24-25; Gen. 1:28).
     Fourth, the theory of evolution fails to explain the absence of transitional forms in the fossil record.  Geologists have not found the fossil evidence proving evolution.  Darwin, in his book, On the Origin of the Species, stated, “so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, be truly enormous” (1860, p. 234). He went on to admit, “Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be argued against this theory.  The explanation lies, I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record” (Darwin, p. 234).  The geological record proving evolution has not improved since Darwin.  Jerry Adler, in a November 3, 1980 Newsweek article stated, “Evidence from fossils now points overwhelmingly away from the classical Darwinism which most Americans learned in high school: that new species evolve out of existing ones by the gradual accumulation of small changes, each of which helps the organism survive and compete in the environment” (Reason and Revelation, Feb. 2009, p. 12-13–Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons, Darwin in  Light of 150 Years of Error).  The Bible teaches that like begets like and, so, no transitional forms in the fossil record (Gen. 1-2).
    Fifth, the theory of evolution fails to explain that there is no God!  If the theory of evolution is true, then there is no God!  Atheists are people who believe that they know that God does not exist.  However, in order to believe this, they must be omniscient.  They must know everything there is to know, because if there is one thing that they do not know–that one thing may be God!  No man is omniscient.  Therefore, no man living today or who has ever lived could prove that God does not exist.  Recent advertisements in Europe say, “God probably does not exist, so don’t worry, go ahead and enjoy your life.”  Why would the ads say “probably” He does not exist?  This is an admission of fallibility and ignorance.  The Bible declares that God is (Gen. 1:1). 
     The theory of evolution fails to meet the demands of proof, science, and the Bible.  “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21).  I’m not surprised that the theory of evolution is a hard sell among Americans and Britons.  Some people are still wise enough to reject that which is utterly false.