GET OUT THERE AND FIGHT!

atheism.jpg It disturbs me greatly that so many Christians are remaining in the huddle instead of fronting up to the line of scrimmage and fighting the good fight. We stay within our own comfortable groups and pretend that all is well with the world. Well here’s a newsflash: there’s a war going on! The skeptics and atheists are on the attack and we ignore it to our harm and the detriment of our faith.

I’ve noticed most atheists/skeptics fall into two categories:

  • Refugees from religion who have chosen a life of skepticism. They are in angry rebellion to the excesses and misdeeds of religious leaders and their contradictory, confusing, erroneous and ignorant teachings.
  • People who have never been religious and look with disdain upon those who are. Their rationale is well-fed by the stupidity, misdeeds, inconsistencies, shenanigans and ignorance of religious pundits and their followers.

These are the aggressive skeptics and atheists who write blogs and books and appear on television.

What bothers me about this is how they are largely unopposed. It seems that the majority of religious people just shake their heads and silently go about their business. They’ve given up trying to make sense of it all. They’ve never given theism or atheism much thought. Well, the time has come for that to change. Here is what must happen and it must happen now.

  1. Become aware. Realize that the conflict is raging. It is raging all around us. Get your head out of the sand and take a look. There are battles that must be fought.
  2. Get educated.
    1. Read the Word. You must know your Bible if you are going to defend your faith. Read it for yourself. You’ll find that some of what you thought was truth is based on someone’s interpretation. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
    2. Read the books and blogs of those who oppose theism (that’s why I have a part of my blogroll called “The Opposition”). Become acquainted with their arguments. Study science (not pseudo-science but the real stuff). Science is the ally of faith, not its enemy. When you use science to defend your faith, know what you’re talking about.
    3. Read and learn from the books, websites and blogs of those who have been successfully fighting. One apologist I highly recommend is John Clayton. These people have been at it for a long time and you can benefit from their experience.
  3. Get real. Some of the ridiculous stuff promoted by self-appointed apologists just doesn’t hold water. Stop trying to defend the indefensible. Stop trying to prove what cannot be proven. The existence of God cannot be proven (or disproven) but you can rally the evidence to show that it’s the reasonable choice. If you take No. 2 and 4 seriously, you will learn which arguments are effective and which are not.
  4. Get engaged. There is no better way to learn how to “get real” than getting into the fray. Don’t be afraid to be proven wrong. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We learn how to fight by fighting. Sometimes we will make valid points; sometimes we will discover a point is invalid. How do you get engaged? Seek out discussions with your atheist/skeptic friends. Comment on their blogs. Write your own blog. Write articles. Speak when you can. Above all…do something!
  5. Be humble. You don’t know everything. Some of your opposition will know much more than you do (then again, some of them are dreadfully ignorant). Listen to them. Learn from them. There’s an old Texas saying, “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when yer talkin’.” Be polite, be civil, and be respectful. Don’t polarize your opposition by being an arrogant jerk.
  6. Don’t retreat…don’t give up. If you lose a battle, learn from it and get back into the war. There’s no more effective soldier than a battle-hardened one.

“Rise up, O men (and women) of God! / Have done with lesser things. / Give heart and mind and soul and strength / To serve the King of kings” William Merrill.

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19 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Blogs & Blogging, Change Agent, Culture Wars, Jesus Christ, Religion, Science, Writing

19 responses to “GET OUT THERE AND FIGHT!

  1. Bob Chapman

    Dwight,

    Vital, it is absolutely vital that we always be on the front foot and not the back foot regarding our faith in Christ.
    As for listening more than speaking, I personally have found this the most effective way of defending the faith in the presence of those far more educated than I.
    Smart folks, when allowed to do most of the talking usually provide great hooks upon which small but devestating questions can be hung.

    Bob

  2. Wiser

    You know me from another site, but suddenly now that I am here I understand you an awful lot better, and see where you are coming from.

    You think you are in some kind of war. People like you do scare me, because of your apocalyptic, black and white ideology/pathology. How hard it must be to be someone with so many irons hanging from your cross. You have destroyed my wife’s life, people like you. She was successful, now penniless, lost custody of our kids, living in the woods waiting for Jesus to tell her of her purpose. Oblivious. Unable to live in society without, well, behaving like you. Charging out at those who have the gall the think on their own, or to think other than your way.

    If you are so secure in your faith, why are you so worried about someone who doesn’t believe exactly as you do? Leave them alone. Judge not, and all that. Do you always have to be at war? If so, stop talking about peace and love please. And then tell me what is so wonderful about your imaginary bully whom you fear. I mean, after all, he’s made your life so wonderful that you are so paranoid you are seeking out others to fight war with on the internet (and who knows where else?). You belong the the infancy of our species.

    Stay off our blogs, they’re not about you. You aren’t converting anyone. You’re just being a prick.

  3. Robert

    I’m not sure why you target only skeptical atheists. Aren’t ALL non-Christians skeptics? In fact, aren’t Christians who don’t believe in your particular branch of Christianity skeptics?

    Yes, atheists have been more vocal lately, but their voice is but one among many of the cacophony proclaiming your particular set of beliefs to be a sham.

    In any case, as an atheist, I welcome your call for Christians to become more involved in apologetics. It’s been a great pathway for some to lose their belief.

  4. dwhitsett

    Wiser,
    I don’t know you…haven’t had the pleasure.
    Your blogs? Not about me? How many blogs do you have and which ones are they? I will be sure to stay off them. In the meantime, take care of yourself.

  5. Thanks, Dwight, for your posts, especially your recent articles regarding apologetics, science/faith, and assembly. You may not know, but I have an undergraduate degree in Biology, which is a regular source of frustration since I regularly run across poor, unfounded, and unscientific arguments coming from what you have rightly termed “self-appointed apologists.” Although every Christian ought to be an apologist, not every Christian learns what they ought before making assertions and arguments. And, sadly, even more Christians never even attempt to defend their faith, or to even learn why they believe what they believe. This has given me a hesitancy at sharing even plain facts with my fellow Christians for fear that they will respond poorly: either by shunning me, or by loosing faith and jumping ship before understanding the faith-building conclusions of such facts. But, you are an encouragement. Thanks for your candid, passionate, and timely appeals. In Him.

  6. dwhitsett

    Robert,
    The answer to your questions is no.
    Sham? I would expect nothing less from an atheist. But, would you like to say something substantive about why you believe that? After all, you might provide some pathways for folks to lose their belief. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  7. dwhitsett

    Clint,
    Thanks so much for your comment. No, I didn’t know about your degree. What you say is so true. Ignorant statements have done “our side” no good. It just provides ammunition for the detractors. I would be honored by your comments any time. You should also feel free to send me stuff to post. Good to hear from you.

  8. Great post brother!
    AMEN!
    I have added your blog to my favorites and will be reading it on a regular basis. I want to invite you to join in any discussion that we may be having on my blog. I totally agree that we need to be more vocal in our Christianity “For God did not give us a spirit of Timidity but of Power!”
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  9. dwhitsett

    This is in reply to a person’s comments on another blog. For some technical reason I was not able to post it there. It does, however fit in with the comments on this blog. — DW
    JustCant
    You wrote, “I suggest that you have probably made a decision that is not true. Why is that?”
    I think you meant that I have decided it is true. And, you would be right. Some of the history recorded in the Bible cannot be verified. That, however, is true of any history, particularly history from that time period. Nevertheless, I will address each of these issues.
    The exodus and the call for relics. I take it that this is a denial of the historicity of the exodus based on the lack of archeological evidence. Nomadic people seldom leave any traces of their wanderings. The Israelites planted no crops, built no cities, had a tent for a temple, etc. What kind of evidence would suffice for you? Even today the Jews celebrate three festivals commemorating the exodus from Egypt. I wonder why the celebrate something that never happened? Some folks think they have found actual physical evidence – see what you think about this site: http://bibleprobe.com/exodus.htm
    The age of the earth. The answer to this one is simple: the Bible makes no claims regarding the age of the earth.
    Worldwide flood – you are right about the flood you refer to. A worldwide flood is unverifiable.
    Shape of the earth – the Bible does not teach cosmology. There are words and phrases like “pillars of the earth,” “ends of the earth,” or “four corners of the earth.” But there are also phrases like the “circle of the earth.” No definitive statement is made about the shape of the earth. The Hebrews did not have a word for “sphere.” For an extensive discussion of this point look at this site: http://www.tektonics.org/af/earthshape.html
    Jesus on when the world would end – Where does he say when it would end? In fact, he said no one could know that except the Father.
    I believe you meant the number of pi…but I’m not sure what that has to do with our discussion.
    Verifiable proofs giving the Bible credibility:
    Prophecy and fulfillment: Daniel listed eight world powers in the order they appeared before they appeared. Good trick, huh? The same is true for other prophecies we can verify historically.
    Historical Accuracy: The Bible is an accurate document of historical facts. Archaeologists use it as a guide to unearth proof of nations, names of people, places, kings, conflicts, cities, events, etc.
    Cosmological accuracy: Keeping in mind that the Bible is not a scientific document, it is not in conflict with scientific discoveries.
    A better question would be, “What facts would destroy the Bible’s credibility?”
    Your request for a miracle. Well, I would like some of those also but No. 7 gives me plenty of reason to believe the Bible is the revelation of God. I believe what I cannot prove on the basis of what I can. That’s the definition of faith.
    You said, “He is supposedly subverting the laws of physics and science every day all over the world.” How so?

  10. dwhitsett

    Wiser,
    An additional word (if you ever come back to have a look).
    I just want to refer you to my post:
    https://dwhitsett.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/inflammatory-language-accomplishes-nothing/

  11. hokku

    My experience in discussing with conservative Christians is that it often ends with the Christians — if they are in control — either abandoning the discussion when the facts make them uneasy, or censoring the discussion completely. It happens so often as to be commonplace.

    As for your comments on the “end of the world,” Jesus is recorded as having said in the Apocalypse that he was “coming quickly.” By no stretch of the imagination is some 2,000 years and counting “quickly.”

    The average Christian response to this is to say that he did not mean what the text clearly says, or that it is somehow in “divine” rather than human terms (even though it is addressed to humans, in human language), in which “a day is as a thousand years.” But the obvious meaning is simply that he would come soon, and that did not happen.

    One could greatly multiply such instances and discrepancies, but the point is that Christians are generally very disappointing as apologists, because they prefer preaching to the choir and are not willing to stick it out when the facts of the case seem to be going against them. They will use any argument, no matter how far-fetched, and if that one seems to fail, they will go on to a completely different answer to the very same issue, constantly moving the goal post to preserve their dogmas. And when that is not working, they will end the discussion in whatever way they can.

    The occasional exception, someone who can take the heat, is so rare as to be refreshing.

  12. Bob Chapman

    Hokku,

    It is good to see that you are obviously a Bible “hearer” and one who has heard enough scripture to misquote it in the defence of your agnosticism, which is usually embraced when one is exposed to too much denominational religion while growing up rather than spiritual discernment from an honest read of the Bible when one is grown up.

    The “coming” you referred to in John’s Apocalypse is merely a final reaffirmation of Christ’s warning to the churches in His earlier reference and warning to them in chapters 2 & 3. (See Rev. 2:5,16; 3:3,11). This “coming” has nothing to do with the return of Christ, but His coming in judgement against those churches which He rebukes through John. He did come against them in judgement and they ceased to exist not long after John’s Apocalypse was sent out to them.

    As for your comment, “One could greatly multiply such instances and discrepancies”, may I suggest you cite them and your reasoning as to why such “supposed” discrepancies support your agnosticism.

    Bob Chapman

  13. Robert

    dwhitsett,

    Care to expand on why you believe that all non-Christians are not as much skeptics as atheists?

    It appears you took umbrage at my comment about your beliefs being a sham. Remember, this is what all non-Christians believe, and probably some Christians as well. From your perspective, aren’t the beliefs of Muslims, Scientologists, Mormons and Catholics also a sham?

    In any case, there are a number of reasons why I believe Christian theology to be a sham. One of the biggest ones is the Problem of Evil. Yes, I’ve read tons of apologetics which try to explain it away, but none are even remotely convincing.

    I also suggest you do more research on the list of proofs you made yesterday (e.g., “Verifiable proofs giving the Bible credibility”). It’s really first grade apologetics stuff which knowledgeable skeptics and Christians have dismissed long ago. To offer an example, the historical accuracy of the Bible is far less than you make it out to be. Yes, there are some things in it which have been verified, but there are many, many others for which there is no evidence, which undercuts major portions of Christian theology. Read The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Also, Hector Avalos’s The End of Biblical Studies is very good as well.

  14. hokku

    Bob Chapman wrote:
    “The “coming” you referred to in John’s Apocalypse is merely a final reaffirmation of Christ’s warning to the churches in His earlier reference and warning to them in chapters 2 & 3. (See Rev. 2:5,16; 3:3,11). This “coming” has nothing to do with the return of Christ, but His coming in judgement against those churches which He rebukes through John.”

    Well, that makes my point. In countless such discussions with ministers and lay persons, I have never heard one attempted that particular explanation. But it simply does not fit the context of the Apocalypse, which focuses on the Second Coming, and which includes the author response, “Erkhou kurie Iesou,” “Come, Lord Jesus.”

    And we can see that your interpretation is incorrect not only from the context of the Apocalypse, but from the use of the phrase “Maranatha” (“Come, Lord”) in the early Church (for example, the Didache) which referred not to a coming for judgment in this or that locale or to this or that person or group alone, but to the whole world.

  15. Bob Chapman

    Hokku,

    It appears that you are indeed convinced that the Apocalypse is Christ’s declaration of the need for all to repent and turn to Him as His promised return is imminent. Therefore would it not be in your best interest to heed this truth you so eager to defend and stop kicking against the gourds and embrace Jesus rather than reject Jesus?

    Bob

  16. hokku

    Bob chapman wrote:
    “It appears that you are indeed convinced that the Apocalypse is Christ’s declaration of the need for all to repent and turn to Him as His promised return is imminent. Therefore would it not be in your best interest to heed this truth you so eager to defend and stop kicking against the gourds and embrace Jesus rather than reject Jesus??

    No, I do not believe that in the least. The Apocalypse is a human and fallible document written in a certain historical situation and its time has long past. Jesus said he would come quickly and he did not. It is “failed prophecy” in Christian terms. But beyond that it is worth noting that the Apocalypse had a good deal of trouble even in being admitted to the canon; there was a great deal of suspicion about it in the early church, and of course it was the CHURCH that determined eventually what was included in the canon. The Bible nowhere authorizes or names all its contents as divinely inspired and to be included in the “Scriptures.” That was done by the church long after the documents had been written and revised and edited. And even today the canon differs somewhat, depending on whether one is Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Ethiopian Christian.

    So what you are suggesting to me seems no more logical that to base one’s actions on what is said in any fictional, fallible human text — and I think you meant to write “kicking against the goads.”

    But again, your posting makes my point. Instead of dealing with the issues, you instead took the very common Christian practice of issuing “supernatural” threats. That does not work at all in apologetics, because those who agree with you simply do not –as I do not — consider them a part of the realities of the universe, but rather religious propaganda.

    If you really want to deal with those who, like myself, consider the Bible a human, fallible collection of documents, it is better to deal directly with the issues and evidence for its fallibility (or otherwise, in your view).

  17. dwhitsett

    Hokku

    Well, I’m afraid you won’t get the “average Christian response” from me. If I don’t know the answer to something I will admit it.

    You are one of the few who say that the text of Revelation is clear. It is written in apocalyptic language which is purposely unclear. We can gain some “large picture” information (in the context of the Roman Empire, God’s people and God’s way will be triumphant and, by extension, under any repressive regime) but, historically, the rest is guesswork. Do I understand Revelation? Not very well, but I’m working on it.

    As for “the end of the world,” what Jesus seems to emphasize is that any coming (in judgment or otherwise) will be very quick, like a flash of lightning (Matthew 24:27).
    Revelation 3:11 22:7, 12, 20 all use the word Gk: tachu which means “quickly, speedily (without delay)”. The tenor of Revelation is judgment that is soon to come to pass (1:1; 22:6). You are right that “soon” would not be thousands of years later. The judgment upon Jerusalem (Matthew 24 et al.) was going to happen soon. The judgment upon Rome (the apparent target) was going to happen soon and did. It would not make sense then to apply passages in Revelation to thousands of years hence. A good portion of the religious world seeks to make Revelation refer to sometime in the future and the second coming of Christ and the end of time. The context does not seem to support such a view.

    There are, however, other passages that teach the return of Christ and the end of the world (2 Peter 3) and emphasize the fact that it may be a long time coming. You might not like or even agree with his reminder that God, dwelling in eternity, is not held hostage to time, but that is exactly what Peter is saying.
    In Psalm 110:1 the Messiah is exalted to the Father’s right hand UNTIL all his enemies have been conquered, the last of which is death see 1 Corinthians 15:23-27 which quotes Psalm 110. Early Christian preaching/writing explained what even believing Jews did not, at first, understand. As Edward Fudge pointed out to me, “Peter explains in the end of his remarks found at the close of Acts 3, that according to God’s plan, heaven has received Jesus the Messiah UNTIL the time for the restoration of all things.”

    To sum up, there is a sense in which Jesus will quickly come in judgment against His enemies and a sense in which He will come when His enemies have been conquered.

    I certainly agree with your point about Christians preferring to preach to the choir in safety and comfort. That’s the very reason for the post you are responding to.

    What I find when discussing apologetics with atheists is that they often resort to sarcasm and take on an air of superiority (I’m a thinker, you’re not. I am logical, you’re not. I know things, you’re ignorant, etc.). If they are unable to establish a point they begin talking about how most scientists/intellectuals/professors believe this or that. I’ve heard some pretty far-fetched stuff from that direction also.

    I think we have to give something to each other, but we have to have a measure of humility to do so. We need to acknowledge that proponents of atheism and theism may have both come to their present worldview in a reasonable fashion. Is it reasonable to be an atheist? Of course. Is it reasonable to be a theist? Of course. Each side seeks to show that theirs is the most reasonable position. It accomplishes nothing but polarization to generalize either position to be the product of ignorance and/or stupidity. It may be so…but in any discussion that remains to be seen.

    Most atheists have come to their conclusions in a reasonable fashion because they must always be on the defensive in the overwhelmingly religious context that is America at present. All too many religious folks have never had to defend their faith and, to be quite honest, don’t know how. Add to that the fact that there is so much indefensible misinformation being spouted by some theists (young earth, no evolution at all, a misuse of intelligent design, using the Bible as a science book, etc.) and you have more heat than light.

  18. hokku

    You wrote that the Apocalypse is written in “apocalyptic language” — well, obviously. But that does not mean everything said in it is cryptic; if that were so, no one would understand any of it.

    When Jesus says, “Behold, I come quickly,” the obvious context is the ending of a book depicting the “end of the world.” He is clearly not saying he is there and gone like a lightning bolt. He is just saying that he is going to come quickly. Any child can understand that, and it is not written in vague “apocalyptic” symbolism.

    As for your “coming in judgment” explanation,” that is just one of numerous loopholes Christians have created to explain away the fact that the Second Coming did not happen at all. As I wrote previously, the Aramaic of the words of the writer of the Apocalypse, “Even so, come Lord Jesus” were used in short form in early Christian communities “Maranatha” — “Come, Lord.” And of course they did not mean “Come in judgment” in individual instances, they were speaking of the Second Coming and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, which is exactly what Jesus is talking about at the end of the Apocalypse.

    Whether one is an atheist or a theist is immaterial in this discussion, which has to do with the accuracy and reliability of the Bible. The Bible is not necessary to be a theist or an atheist. But the Bible itself is a collection of human, fallible books that were anthologized over time by the early church. The Bible itself nowhere speaks of itself as a document infallible in its entirely, nor does it self-identify its contents. These are all creations of Christians over time, and there is no support for either view.

    The first Christians believed Jesus WAS going to come quickly, but he did not, and they had to keep re-setting the time scale. In 2 Peter, which is very late, we see that Christians had begun to actively question the whole matter, because the author of that book again reschedules the coming; Jesus is not “coming quickly,” because time with God is different. It is an unbelievably poor excuse, because the book was written in human language, not God talking to himself.

    And of course even in Paul we see that Paul himself expected to be alive when Jesus Came. Again, it did not happen.

  19. Mike

    Dwight,
    I came to your blog via Edward Fudge’s GraceEmail. I’m happy to have found this blog. I have spent quite a bit of time recently on an atheist website, specifically the blog (nogodblog.com) and must say that you are absolutely right on in your assessment and recommendations. Some of the problems that I encountered were 1) there was often more heat than light, 2) most atheists are very well informed…unfortunately the information that they have is based upon the actions of a few “Christians” and the research of a few “scientists.” 3) Many are angry, have been hurt and lash out with ad hominim attacks when you start picking away at their reality. 4) Many good meaning Christians who have not done their homework and haven’t learned about Grace have littered the trail with nonsense, foolishness and angry words that are projected back at anyone who calls themselves Christian.
    I can say so much more but others have said it better and written much about the subject. I suggest Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” to anyone who is going to go into battle. In his book he interviews some of the top contemporary scientists, all who have come to a saving knowledge of our Lord through the science they’ve committed their lives to studying.
    The arguments put forth in this book are indispensible for anyone who wants to discuss the theistic position with those on the other side.
    Above all else, pray for them. I have been blessed to have become friends with someone I met on the blog. He is an atheist still but we have a relationship that I know God will bless. I have learned from him and I know that he has learned from me. However, until he opens his heart to God, his mind will remain closed.

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