Monday, July 14, 2008

Useless Conversations

We’ve all had ‘em. We recognize fairly quickly the other person has no interest in actually communicating with us, as much as talking at us. The other day I was conversing (in the loosest sense of the word) with a person who was upset about something that had nothing to do with the conversation.

Me: I understand you are upset—
Person: I am NOT upset! I just DON’T understand why they would DO that! And without consulting me! No one does that! THEN I come to find out about THIS!

Me: Well, we talked about it, remem---?
Person: No, YOU didn’t talk about it—not with ME. We NEVER talked about it! This is something I NEEDED to know about, and you NEVER said anything…

Me: Mmm.

I retreated to the non-committal grunt, because the other person was not having this conversation to obtain information from me, or discuss the issue with me—they wanted to rant at me. And there is no gain trying to have a rationale conversation when a person is in such a mood.

I happened upon another such conversation. Let me set the scene…

Thursday, Dr. Russell Moore was guest hosting on Dr. Mohler’s radio program. The topic was Michael Dowd’s book Thank God for Evolution. From what I could gather, an attempt to marry the theory of Evolution with the theology of Christianity. Of course, Dr. Moore was having none of that!

And at one point Dr. Moore opined Rev. Dowd’s book was actually leading people away from Christianity. This prompted “Ash,” a deconvert from Florida, to call in. Ash admitted he had not heard the entire program, but had heard the comment regarding evolution leading people away from Christianity. Ash stated among all the deconverts he knew, evolution was very rarely the reason for a person to deconvert.

[As a note, I would have to agree with Ash. While the study of science and realization of the mischaracterization of evolution by Christianity has certainly lead to some deconverts, it would be a very distinct minority.]

Now this could have lead to an interesting discussion. Dr. Moore could have asked a number of questions:

“What IS the primary cause of a person to deconvert?”
“Why ISN’T evolution a primary cause?”
“Do you think, as an atheist, evolution can be married to Christianity?”

And so on. Instead, Dr. Moore engaged in the following conversation:

Dr. Moore: Why did you embrace atheism?

Ash: [after discussing how everyone is an atheist toward some God, Zeus, Allah, etc.]….For me it was the lack of evidence.

Dr. Moore: I think it was more than that, Ash; and I going to pray you’ll come to know the god that reveals his glory through Jesus Christ. But I think your issue is the same as mine was and the same Michael Dowd’s is, and the same as the Apostle Paul said his was before that Damascus road. I think you know there’s a god, I think you know there is certain fiery expectation of judgment. I just think exactly as the Apostle John says, “The light comes into the world and the men hate the light and they love the darkness” and why? Because their deeds are evil and they want to cover it over…

The issue isn’t evidence. The issue instead is exactly what Paul is talking about in Romans chapter one, “Although they knew God as God they would not honor him or give thanks.” That’s the issue. So what do they do? They turn to the Creation instead of the Creator…

Need I point out how condescending and rude this remark is? I think not! When Dr. Moore asked the question, “Why did you embrace atheism?”—he was not interested in Ash’s answer. He wanted to engage in useless pontification as to all the reasons Dr. Moore was quite certain atheists are atheists. (And apparently the reason for evolution, too—so we can sin!)

Think about the statement, “The issue isn’t evidence.” It isn’t? All those apologists like Dr. Craig, and J.P. Moreland and Lee Strobel and Dr. Plantinga must be quite surprised their books and articles and websites and debates are all for naught. The next time Dr. Habermas is debating another philosophy professor regarding the resurrection of Christ, according to Dr. Moore, he need not bother with such silly notions as evidence, or the New Testament writings, or the actions of the people of the time. Oh, my no! All Dr. Habermas need say is, “The reason you {insert Professor’s name here} don’t believe is that you want to Sin, Sin, Sin! I do not need to show an ounce of evidence—you need to stop sinning!”

Dr. Metzger, Dr. Wallace, Dr. Ehrman. Textual Criticism? Waste of time. The reason we know Dr. Ehrman is wrong, is because he wants to sin. Drs. Wallace and Metzger do (did) not. Don’t you see?

Why is it when Christians want to talk about the reasons they believe, they love to drag out the “evidence” of the alleged eyewitness testimonies, the archeological facts which refer to events in the Bible, or non-Christian writings regarding Christians in the first Century? Yet when we want to inspect such evidence, we are told we aren’t rejecting it because of our study—oh, no! We are rejecting it because of our secret desire to keep our pimp hand strong.

The reality is that humans are complicated creatures. We don’t all march to one tune. There is no “one thing” that persuades all humans. Some Christians believe because of evidence; some non-Christians believe for the same reasons. Some Christians believe because of an emotional experience; same is true for non-Christians. Some Christians believe because of moral implications; same is true for non-Christians.

For the Christian, imagine this, if you can. What if they discovered a First Century authenticated copy of Matthew in which Jesus says it is acceptable to divorce your spouse for any reason? Yes, it would turn textual criticism on its ear—but more importantly would every Christian rush right out and get a divorce?

Of course not! Most would stay married because they are married to their spouse for MORE than just the reason that divorce is a sin. Things like commitment, love, a genuine desire to be married to the other person, the detriments of divorce, children, social stigma, etc.

It is absolutely ridiculous to make the claim the ONLY reason Christians stay married is that divorce is a sin. The same way it is equally ridiculous the ONLY reason people reject Christianity is to sin. I didn’t have any desire to obtain a new lifestyle of pillaging small villages, so “Christianity had to go.” Quite the contrary—I desired with my whole-heart to keep Christianity! It had nothing to do with sin. The same way we desire to keep our marriages—it has nothing to do with the concern of “sin” of divorce—we do it because we want our marriage!

Likewise, the statement, “…I think you know there is certain fiery expectation of judgment” is truly inane. Do you know why people don’t murder? Because they don’t want to go to jail. Why they don’t swipe items from the store? Because they don’t want to go to jail. Why people stop at a stop light at 2 in the morning when they can clearly see for miles around there isn’t a blooming car in sight? Because they don’t want a ticket.

Punishment is a strong motivator.

This past year my oldest daughter received a two-day involuntary vacation from school. (I.e.—a suspension.) When questioned, she said, “I couldn’t help it. I reached my breaking point.” I explained to her when her parents were done punishing for the offense—she would amazingly discover she had a much higher breaking point than she realized. That her “breaking point” will reach new heights so when she was faced with a similar situation she would think, “No, this is not worth it, because my punishment will be more pain than the momentary pleasure.”

Some of us drive over the speed limit. Why? Because the punishment (a ticket) is not severe enough to cause us to not. If they started to impose Capital Punishment for speeders—we would stop!

Why do we slow down when we see a police officer on the side of the road? Because we “know” we are in danger of getting a ticket. Who has the guts to blow past an officer at 100 miles per hour, thinking they won’t get caught?

Imagine knowing the punishment of fire. Of burning alive. Of sheer, excruciating pain covering our entire body, from the top of head, to our armpits, to our delicate parts, down to our toes. Of the inside of your throat swallowing boiling tar. Imagine that for 30 seconds. For a minute. For a half an hour. We can’t even exercise for a half-an-hour; let alone endure such torture!

If we really “knew” such judgment was coming—don’t you think we would do everything in our power to avoid it? Let alone an eternity of it! Pick one or the other. It is curious we are told we are so selfish we refuse to acknowledge a God because we want to sin; if we were that selfish, wouldn’t we do everything we could for our own comfort? And highest on that list would be to avoid hell!

Even though there is the possibility of becoming rich, we don’t steal from banks because of the punishment; we certainly aren’t going to reject what we “secretly” know is true in order to commit some perceived sin when the punishment is far more terrible. Besides, as Christians, we are informed due to our sin nature, we will continue to sin anyway and will be forgiven. What is the point of giving up Christianity to sin, when we don’t have to give up Christianity to sin?

I “hate the light”? Bwahahahaha. Explain why every single pastor I have discussed my deconversion will be “getting back to me.” If it is me, the darkness, “running from the light” it sure is odd how the light won’t call me back. Every Christian leader I talked to—I’m waiting to get back to me. My entire Christian family—no response to me e-mails on the topic. The church I attended, “We don’t really have a place for you.”

This “darkness” is extremely amused to be told I am running from the light. No, that is the light running from me, and from their perspective and speed, it only looks as if the widening distance is my fault.

I am less inclined to continue such conversations. You want to state I didn’t believe in Christ as Savior and God with the same intensity as “true Christians”? Useless conversation. You want to claim the Bible as authoritative, but don’t even know the history of its formation? Fine, we can learn together. However it becomes a useless conversation when you say, “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it.”

You want me to read Christian authors (many of whom I already have) but you are not interested in reading scientists? Useless conversation.

I know we are so caught-up on the web, we feel we HAVE to point out every wrong. Every error. Thus assuring the longevity of useless conversations.


  1. Here's a conversation I had about 2 months ago:

    Me: I'm not going to your church any more.
    Mom: Why not?
    Me: For starters, John Calvin burned people at the stake.
    Mom: But we're not Calvanists.
    Me: Right... and that's why we have a Calvanism 101 Sunday School class, then?
    Mom: Well, we don't burn people at the stake!
    Me: That would be like saying it's okay to follow the teachings of Adolf Hitler, as long as we don't gas any Jews.
    Mom: But what will I tell everyone when they ask why you're not there?
    Me: I don't care what they think of me.
    Mom: [breaks down into yelling at me that I have to follow God, because he told me to do so in the Bible]

    A few days later she gives me a copy of "A Case for Christ". I tell her I've already read it. She tells me to read it anyway. I will admit, it was fun taking notes in the margins each time I found a hole or a flaw in logic, or whenever there was some flat-out falisification of evidence (which is easy to verify on the internet). I'm sure one day Uncle Kevin will want his book back, and I hope he has as much fun reading my notes as I had writing them.

  2. Dagood's

    Is this the same daughter who was trying to think like a petosky? i feel baited. What did she do to get suspended, this kid is a gem and it has to be good.

    "and I'm going to pray you’ll come to know the god that reveals his glory through Jesus Christ."

    The fact that Moore couldn't simply shut up after this comment is evidence that he doesn't really believe in a god who answers his prayers.

  3. As one of the few willing apologists for ol' Jean Chauvin, let me say that there is a pretty obvious difference between Calvin and Hitler.

    Calvin's involvement in the murder of Michael Servetus is inexcusable. Calvin himself expressed regret for the whole sorry affair (his direct involvement was in pointing him out from the pulpit when Servetus unexpectedly sneaked into Calvin's church service, and after the arrest pleading for a less severe punishment). The Spanish Inquisition had already convicted Servetus in absentia and was gearing up to torture Servetus thoroughly before executing him, but the more militant types in Geneva got to him first.

    That having been said, Calvin's writings were about theology, God, and humanity's relation to God. This is entirely unlike Hitler, whose writings were about the control of the Jews and the Communists of the world and the need to rid the world of both.

    Aside from the reductio ad Hitlerium fallacy (a.k.a. Godwin's law: the first person to bring in Hitler into a conversation that has nothing to do with European history has already lost the argument--and incidentally the tactic that Mohler et al use to discredit evolution), you can find something hideous in the history of just about any religious, social or political movement:

    "All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Well, you know that Thomas Jefferson not only owned slaves, but schtupped them, and he was a supporter of the French Revolution that murdered thousands of innocent people.

    Abolition of child labor. Well, that was something first pushed hard by Karl Marx, and Stalin called himself a Marxist, and Stalin was responsible for the slaughter of millions of his own people.

    Non-violent resistance to oppression has become one of the most morally powerful forces for social justice in the world. But Mohandas Gandhi wrote in 1938 that despite the Nazi oppression of European Jews, "it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs."

    See a pattern?

    You have to take the life and works of anyone in context.

    Calvin was a brilliant theologian, though he was mostly wrong when it came to civil governance.

    Jefferson was a brilliant political scientist, though (as he was the first to admit) he was guilty of some hypocrisy when it came to slavery and was unbelievably naïve when it came to the brutality of revolutionary France.

    Gandhi would, through much hardship, strife, and ultimately the sacrifice of his own life, prove the brilliance of non-violent resistance. He was, however, naïve about the threat of fascism and the power of the religious and cultural divides in colonial India.

    I don't know which denomination your mom belongs to, thenerd, but if it is indeed a Calvinist church (which in the US and Canada means a 95% chance of being Presbyterian), it's odd that she would present such an fiercely Evangelical book written by someone who uses leading lights of the Unification (Moonie) Church to make his point.

    As someone who is not only Christian but a Calvinist, I'm unconvinced by Lee Strobel.

  4. TheNerd,

    You know, I didn’t get any book recommendations from people who really knew me. In fact, it is an inverse proportion of recommendation to length of acquaintance. The longer they knew me, the less likely they would recommend books.

    Besides, with my friends we had studied many of these authors and discussed many of these subjects over time. What were they going to do—suggest I read it again?

    I wish Christians would realize Strobel is the worst recommendation. His books are written to Christians, and for a person going through deconversion just emphasize the holes in the theories. Bad idea.


    Actually, a different daughter. Sigh. I have a handful, eh? *grin*

  5. **I going to pray you’ll come to know the god that reveals his glory through Jesus Christ.**

    Is there at all a connection between the saved who pray for the unsaved, and those who absolutely know what atheists are thinking?

    My first reaction to that quote above is this prayer might make or break God revealing Himself to Ash. That in fact, if the prayer didn't occur, God wouldn't do anything to save Ash, or try and contact Ash. It just always strikes me as arrogant because there's an undercurrent there of "I can influence God." He can influence God to the point where he (the speaker) can control what Ash believes or doesn't believe.

    And if one has the power to influence God, the knowing the motivation of other mortals is a piece of cake. Since you already know the "truth," you don't actually have to bother listening to the other person, or asking any questions as to why s/he arrived at the belief set.

    I know that almost any Christian would be appalled over the fact that s/he might have control over God. But that's always my reaction whenever someone says they'll pray for another person. How does the prayer alter how God treats people? God already knows everything, God can already do everything, God wants to save everyone (unless one is a Calvinist) ... so what does the prayer accomplish in terms of saving another person?

    **Michael Dowd’s is, and the same as the Apostle Paul said his was before that Damascus road. **

    I'm confused about this -- is Dr. Moore saying that Paul knew Christianity was true before Paul converted? Because my impression is that he geniunly believed in what he was doing, pre-Jesus vision. After the vision, he realized the truth, and thus began proclaiming the gospel.

    **The same way it is equally ridiculous the ONLY reason people reject Christianity is to sin. **

    I'm reminded of a Rebecca St. James lyric from her last new album, a song called "Alive." It has two lines in it that remind me of this -- one is "I always wanted my own way/till I saw that I find my life when I lose it" and the other is "I used to think that me, myself and I were all that mattered."

    I really found them to be caricatures. Yes, some people do only think about themselves at all times. But for most people, they think about themselves when they're five, and then their world gets bigger.

    For instance, DagoodS -- if you truly only wanted your own way 100% of the time, I have no doubt that your marriage would have failed by now, your children wouldn't be talking to you, and your family would shun you. You'd have no friends, and probably wouldn't have a very good job.

    The whole reason why you do have what you have is because more matters to you than just yourself.

  6. Flycandler,

    A bit of yes and no. I agree Calvin wrote some excellent treatises regarding theological implications within the Protestant movement. I also agree that the Servetus situation does not mean Calvinism is false. But nor can it be ignored, either. (Which you don’t, of course.)

    I agree simply saying “A bad person did this; therefore doing this is wrong” is a horrible argument. I use (since Godwin’s law has already been breached) Hitler and pants:

    1. Hitler was a bad person.
    2. Hitler wore pants.
    3. Therefore, we must not wear pants.

    The point being, Hitler’s wearing pants had nothing whatsoever to do with his philosophy and resulting insane evilness. Hitler would have been just as bad in a kilt, toga or bathrobe.

    However, killing apostates was part of Calvin’s philosophy in life. True, he only wanted Servetus killed; not tortured and then killed—but Calvin felt justified by his God to hold the right to kill those who apostatize from the faith. Again, this does not necessarily mean that everything Calvin had to say was wrong, but it does not paint the nicest picture of Calvin, either.

    While you may be aware of Servetus, most Calvinists in the pew are not.

  7. OneSmallStep,

    The “prayer for a salvation” is quite a tricky predicament. On the one hand, God has predestined those who will be saved (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5), so prayer would be ineffectual. On the other hand, in order to be saved, one must believe (Rom. 10:9), so prayer to change an unbelieving heart would be effective.

    On the other hand, people only act as God allows (or wills) (James 4:13-15) so prayer is only asking God to do what God will do anyway, making it ineffectual. On the other hand, God has a desire (wish) that all will be saved, (1 Tim. 2:4) and if God can’t change, what is the Holy Spirit interceding for? (Rom. 8:26) So prayer must be doing something.

    What is it? If one has a God that has predetermined all things—prayer is useless. If one has a God who doesn’t know what people want, and needs prayer to be informed—the God is useless. Open theism has a God who does not know the future—but does it need to be told what humans want?

    God: “What? That human doesn’t want a fiery, torturous eternity in agony? Who knew?”

  8. Dagoods- The way I see it is, sure, he may have had some good thoughts, but there are plenty of people out there who had good thoughts and DIDN'T kill anyone. Surely it isn't too hard to find one of them to follow, especially when the teachings in question are on religion/morality?

  9. Well, in one fell swoop you've eliminated most of the world's religions and philosophies. The typical Evangelical response (which is one I don't buy, BTW) is that atheism makes people into murderous despots, since both Stalin and Mao were atheists and murderous despots.

    Ironically, it's the contribution of Calvin to Protestant Christianity that all humans are inherently imperfect, and that knowledge of our own imperfection and the attendant humility is crucial to how we understand God and neighbor.

  10. Flycandler - Haha, that would probably explain why I don't follow anyone, especially never labled myself with another's name (e.g. Calvanist). There is always something that makes me wince when I look at the life of someone I admire. I've never been much of the "fanboi" type.

    Yes, Calvin's teachings have probably done at least as much good as harm, depending on the initial state of the follower. One could just as easily be made humble knowing one's imperfections as he could say "I'm now made perfect, but you're not perfect yet, so therefore I'm better than you." I'm not saying anyone thinks it's right, but it does happen.

    This is why a little thinking for one's self goes a long way.

  11. TheNerd: Surely it isn't too hard to find one of them to follow, especially when the teachings in question are on religion/morality?

    It should be clarified that Calvinists follow Calvinism; not Calvin. (I am sure the vast predominance of Christians would only say they “follow” Jesus.)

    I don’t know about you, but the term “Darwinism” irks me to no end. Scientists aren’t worshiping Darwin. They aren’t reading every word written by Charles Darwin as holy script, treasured greater than diamond and pearls. While scientists certainly appreciate the contributions made by Darwin—he is not the last statement and sole authority on evolution.

    In the same way, Calvinists appreciate the theology provided by John Calvin, but do not worship the man. Does it make a difference if a person was “following” a modern-day Calvinist, such as Albert Mohler, and Mohler hasn’t killed anyone? Does that make it any more or less correct?

    Calvinism is incorrect because it is derived from a theology (Christianity) which is incorrect. Not because of the morality/immorality of any person who believes in it.

  12. DagoodS - My point exactly. Albert Mohler has much better "moral credentials" than John Calvin. And I've never even heard anyone use the word "Darwinism", but that sounds so annoying!

    I agree, the way a person behaves doesn't always matter. It depends on what their expertise is. For example, it wouldn't matter how many people the developer of a new scientific principle has killed, as far as the science itself is concerned. But it would make a huge difference how sloppy he is in his expirimentation, since the oversights can destroy the validity of the research and delay progress. Conversely, a teacher of morality can be an excellent scientist, but if he's an asshole, what does that say about the morals he preaches?

    This is precisely why the
    "1. Hitler was a bad person.
    2. Hitler wore pants.
    3. Therefore, we must not wear pants."
    example won't work in this situation. Was Hitler an evil fashion designer? No. Therefore the ethics of pants aren't called into question. (Actually, I think our culture is far too pants-happy to ever be dissuaded from wearing them, no matter how evil an advocate they may acquire.)

    It would be much better to say:
    1. Hitler preached about the relative worth of a human life.
    2. Hitler killed members of 'lesser' races.
    3. Don't claim to admire/follow Hitler's worldview if you don't want to be considered capable of killing someone on account of his/her race.

    I'm not saying people SHOULDN'T follow Hitler or Calvin or anyone based on that leader's morals. I'm only saying that they better not be surprised when they are associated with their leader's bad actions. If they're willing to accept that risk of tainted reputation, then who am I to try to stop them?

  13. TheNerd:
    I've never even heard anyone use the word "Darwinism"...

    Now that you are aware of it, you will hear that misplaced term *everywhere*. As an optical scientist who places great faith in the religions of Newtonism, Maxwellism and Fourierism, I take great offense.

    I am listening to the program now. I like listening to this stuff as I cook.

  14. HeIsSailing- I looked it up, and realized that I should modify my statement. I haven't heard people use the word Darwinism by itself. I've always heard the phrase "natural selection" used instead. I have, however, read some crazy things here and there by those who are called "Social Darwinists". I assume by calling oneself a Darwinist it is ment "I believe in natural selection", just as when calling Social Darwinist it is ment "I believe I have a justification to continue being an asshole."

    Ok, so that's a bit harsh. I will admit that the only Social Darwinist I've ever met was a nice guy who didn't really practice what he preached. He just called himself that because he thought it made him sound more educated than he was. But Social Darwinism on paper is one of the most heartless philosphies I've ever come across.

    I won't rant about it, especially as the topic of this comments thread is "Useless Conversations". :P

    BTW, HeIsSailing... exactly who is sailing?

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  16. I just finished listening to the interview on the Albert Mohler program.

    Dr Moore was probably the most condescending interviewer I have ever heard, not only to 'Ash' but to his guest. Dr Moore claims to have read Dowd's book, yet spent the entire first segment trying to establish whether Dowd was in fact even a Christian. When he takes issue with Dowd's claims that our 'sinfulness' derives from evolutionary processes, then says that Ash's 'problem' is the same as Dowd's problem, he all but ignores everything Dowd had said up to that point and calls him an atheist - or at the very least a non-Christian. Absolutely incredible arrogance. Unbelievable.

    Why are people who take different views in life not taken at their word?

    Question for Dr Moore: I thought being a Christian meant trusting Jesus for remission of your sins. Since when does it matter in the Gospel to have the correct belief on *where* that sin came from? Whether you think it came from Adam and Eve being deceived by a serpent, or you think it is an intrinsic part of our human nature borne of evolutionary processes, the fact is that sin is still there - does it really matter where it came from? Is that the only thing that is at issue here?

    As a Christian, I had views much the same as Dowd. I spent too many years studying science and how this universe works to believe in blanket creationism. Such bullheaded ignorance from the anti-science Expelled crowd is just astounding to me.

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  18. TheNerd says:
    ...there by those who are called "Social Darwinists". I assume by calling oneself a Darwinist it is ment ...

    That is not quite what I meant by the term. Anti-science Christians use the term 'Darwinist' to mean a religion that is opposed to Christianity. Of course, this religion does not exist outside of thier presumptuous minds. Take a listen to the referenced program to hear a few dozen examples of how the term 'Darwinist' and 'Darwinism' are used as a contranst to 'Christianity'.

    TheNerd asks:
    BTW, HeIsSailing... exactly who is sailing?

    An excellent question, young lady, and a chance for me to talk about one of my favorite topics - myself!! ;-)

    'He is Sailing' is a song from the musical duo of singer Jon Anderson and Greek composer Vangelis, released in 1983. The style of their music was sort of synth pop mixed with a sort of precurser to what would eventually become anbient 'New Age' music. Anyway, the lyrics to 'He is Sailing' express, to me, what I think every religion, whether mainstream, cultish, ancient or New Agey, ultimately longs for - The hope of a coming Messiah, A Savior, A Prophet, the reincarnation of an ancient Promise, some kind of Panacea who will rid the world and humanity of all its ills and redeem this world into an ultimate paradise of peace.

    When I first got on the internet a few years ago, I was asked how I could reject Christianity when the world needed a Savior. In a way, I think that is a fair question - because I think religions *groan* for (to use a Pauline expression) that savior. It is something that I long for too - it is a beautiful thought of hope - the wish for a peaceful future of love and enlightenment.

    That is why the song 'He is Sailing' is so powerful to me, and why I chose it for my Internet Handle. It expresses that hope that I wish I could find in religion - the hope of a Universal Messiah, one promised before the oldest of religions, the Savior who will remdeed humanity no matter what their religious convictions or beliefs.

    Of course it is Fantasy. I know that. But that does not diminish the power of such Fantasies on me. Thanks for asking.

    By the way, here is a YouTube link of the song 'He is Sailing' on glorious vinyl.

    DagoodS, sorry for being off topic for a bit.

  19. Good song. My son's favorite song when he was 18 months old was Vangelis' "Roxane's Dance" from the movie Alexander: & (Now he's 22 months old, and he's graduated to "Banana Phone"... sigh.)

  20. TheNerd,

    “Darwinsim” or “Darwinist” is often used in the Christian community as a pejorative term for evolution. As it turns out, it rarely refers to Social Darwinism.

    While I agree Dr. Mohler hasn’t assisted in killing anyone (as far as we know,) and on some cosmic scale, this may make him more moral than John Calvin, the difference is not that great. Some of it is that Calvin was a person of his times, just like Dr. Mohler is a person of this time.

    At the time of Calvin, heretics were killed. Tortured. Burned at the stake. It is how one treated heretics. In Servetus’ Geneva even sent inquires to three (3) other principalities, wondering what to do, and all were in agreement to burn him.

    Now, of course, witch-burning and heretic bonfires are severely frowned upon. In fact, the American authorities would have some significant concerns and would intervene against Dr. Mohler if he tried such actions today. Instead, in today’s society, we see mockery, and mis-representation, and ostracizing, and indignation and a whole variety of tools used against heretics. Dr. Moore’s interview (as pointed out by HeIsSailing) is a sad representation of the implementation of such tactics.

    What if burning came back in style? What if society (and the laws) changed? Would Dr. Mohler abstain? Or would he join in, as his “right” from God, just as Calvin did? I know we would like to think not, but I really wonder. We are more a product of our current society (regardless of theistic belief) than we may like to realize.

  21. HeIsSailing,

    A point of clarification. There is NO SUCH THING as going “off-topic” on my blog. I welcome comments of all sorts. I like the conversation—I am not wedded to any rules upon it. Speak your mind, my friend.

    Secondly, I am fairly impressed you sustained the interview. Yes, I thought Dr. Moore was condescending. I also thought Dowd did an admirable job of taking it in good spirits, and responding positively, rather than becoming defensive.

    I understood Dowd’s point (humans are prone, due to evolution, to committing certain sinful acts, and rather than beat ourselves up about it, should take positive steps to NOT perform these acts) yet Dr. Moore [deliberately?] could not comprehend this. Dr. Moore kept claiming Dowd was attempting to excuse the behavior, whereas it seemed to me, Dowd was attempting to explain the behavior.

    I haven’t read the book, and if Dowd is saying, “It is moral to have an affair, because that is how you are” then Dr. Moore’s point is valid. If, however, Dowd was saying “It is immoral to have an affair; recognize the desire to have an affair is part of who you are from evolutionary history,” then Dr. Moore completely missed the point. A common problem I see in Christian circles.

    HeIsSailing: Why are people who take different views in life not taken at their word?

    You already know the answer to this one. They believe a GOD said Romans 1. If a GOD (who cannot lie) told you one thing, and a human told you the opposite—which one do you believe?

    I don’t really blame ‘em. But it is frustrating…

  22. Did you also notice, DagoodS, that once Dr Moore began his presumptuous response to Ash, neither Ash nor Mr Dowd were heard from again. Either that was edited for rebroadcast, or Dr Moore just railed away with both safely off the telephone. I dunno, maybe I am reading too much into it, but going off like that without letting the guests have a chance to defend themselves is a really sneaky and dirty trick.

  23. I'm still confused by this "Calvan" person (sorry, it's my inner English major screaming to get out).

    I find that, particularly when it comes to discussions about theology, labels can be helpful shorthand if used properly. If I call myself a "Christian", then you can make some basic assumptions about my religious background (I believe in a God, the human incarnation of whom was a Palestinian Jew named Jesus). In the US, the term has largely come to mean "evangelical", which I am not, so I usually specify "Presbyterian" or (less frequently) "Reformed". Now you can now drill down further (I believe that humanity is inherently imperfect, but that God through Christ chooses to redeem us, and that "being saved" through works or "sinners prayers" is unnecessary; that the best available witness we have to God is Scripture, bearing in mind that it has passed through human hands countless times along the way). I can go further and specify "Presbyterian Church (USA)" and give you further insights (I belong to the mainline church and not one of the fringe splinters, I believe that women can be ordained to the ministry, I believe in open communion, I follow a tradition based largely on Calvin and Luther but tempered by Barth). Most importantly to this discussion, I subscribe to a form of Calvinism that Albert Mohler finds appalling.

    It's a fact that like other social, political or religious movements that the system of theology laid out in The Institutes of the Christian Religion is named after the person who happened to author it. Lutheranism is based on the writings of Martin Luther (who himself participated in some pretty astonishing behavior). Jeffersonian Democracy is that democracy that is based on the principles laid out by Thomas Jefferson in his writings. Marxism is based on the socioeconomic writings of Karl Marx. It doesn't mean that to be a Lutheran or Marxist makes one virulently anti-Semitic, or that to be a Jeffersonian democrat makes one in favor of screwing one's slaves.

    Other social/political/religious movements are not named after individuals, yet have problematic histories. Fascism is not named after its creators or proponents (it is not called Mussolinism, Hitlerism or Francoism) but after an inanimate object. Does that mean that using an axe makes one an advocate of hypernationalistic merging of industry and state?

    If the objection is to labels that incorporate someone else's name, then do you (assuming your country of origin) refer to yourself as an American? If so, you're associating yourself with an agent of the de Medici family.

  24. Great blog Dagoods - I couldn't agree more with a lot of your points concerning the state of Christianity (I mean in a general sense obviously).

    "He wanted to engage in useless pontification as to all the reasons Dr. Moore was quite certain atheists are atheists. (And apparently the reason for evolution, too—so we can sin!)" (Dagoods)

    I was expressely interested in this point - it's also something I am delving more into concerning theology. The idea that people leave the faith to commit sin - this has some scriptural basis - but I think the majority of the Christian faith has muddied this one beyond reason.

    In my studies, I am finding this pattern:

    Moral (God) - Immoral (Not God)
    Good (God) - Evil (Not God)

    The church does not actually interpret the NT based on this motif - a motif that seems to shine through in Tanakh - and I think is also in the NT.

    So Mohler's inquisition is actually flawed logic. He is using someone's label (or belief system) to identify them or say they are 'evil and need help' - when one cannot go by a person's beliefs (or label) to determine this at all. It's not even a biblical idea per se.

    So Mohler equates beliefs with state of person. No it is true what one believes becomes their likely action - but in this case - being an atheist or beleiving in 'no God' is actually not an action - just a mind belief. The belief does not cause you to do something - whether good or bad - it's a belief about the nature of something (and in some sense, in the biblical sense, not really a belief - since it contains no moral concern to it).

    And this is what the bible adresses through and through - that belief in God is accompanied with actions and non-belief in God is accompanioed by actions. So if someone leaves God - they are usually committing actions against humanity and God (ie: shedding innocent blood or stealing). The beliefs of the bible are directly tied to the actions of the person - defining them that way versus definition via some label or belief system per se (beliefs that mean nothing like - God is 3 in 1).

    The bible is explictly overly concerned with morality/law in concerns to one's faith in God. Actually, and this is my opinion, faith is determined in one's actions more than in one's beliefs alone (since in this era we have a variety of beliefs - some mean nothing and some mean something in terms of action). What you do defines you better than what you think.

    Mohler is illogical in his discussion - not just because he was one sided and the bible actually teaches against doing that - but in that he thinks that what you believe alone makes you 'good' or 'bad' - in need of help or whatever. Although, sometimes this is true - in this case - about being an atheist - he is way off. You cannot determine someone in terms of their title or label - that is faulty thinking and very generalistic.

    It may be true some atheists do commit bad acts - but the title alone does not mean they all do. So holding a belief does not mean you are 'good or bad'...only your actions can truly reveal that. In this sense, the bible is concerned with moral and immoral - not so much with correct belief systems.

  25. Well, now I went and done it. I was in the airport today on business travel, and I wandered into the airport bookstore. What book do you think was on the front table??

    So I picked it up and cracked it open to a random page - 148. On that page, Dowd writes about the base survival instincts that are processed in the most primitive part of the brain - the cerebellum and brain stem. This is the location of what Dowd calls our 'Lizard Legacy' or our base survival instincts. Dowd categorizes these survival instincts as 'The five Fs': fight, flight, freeze, food and ... copulate.

    hehe - that gave this weary airport traveler a chuckle.

    So I bought the book. The bibliography shows huge diversity, everything from Charles Finney and Robert Schuller, to Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, NT Wright to Robert Funk. With diversity like that, this has got to be an interesting read.

    My reading list is pretty backed up right now, but I am curious to see how Dowd's views jived with my own as a Christian. I am certain his are more thought out since I could neve write a 400 page book on ... anything. I will get to it as soon as I can.

  26. (Dude, I did a Google search on Dowd's Five F's, and I can't find anything. What book are you talking about?)

  27. TheNerd,

    The book is indicated in my blog entry. There is even an amazon link for your convenience. *wink*


    I long figured the radio personalities hang up and get the last word in. All part of the package I guess. Let me know how the book turns out.

  28. The Nerd: EPIC FAIL!

  29. DagoodS, I just finished reading Dowd's book. It was not bad.. but not really very good either. It started off very promising, but turned into a weird mishmash of pop-psychology, science, spirituality and 12 recovery exercises. I wrote a full review on if you want to check it out.