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Feedback archiveFeedback 2002

John Lennon II?

From Allan C. from Curran, Ontario, Canada. In his letter, printed below, he makes points that Christians will often encounter, i.e. that we can’t know for sure, all religions are basically equal, we should be open–minded and tolerant, etc. His letter is reprinted (indented red text), with point-by-point responses by Dr Jonathan Sarfati, showing that such typical claims are often self–refuting, and can be made only by ignorance or closed-minded rejection of the unique claims of Jesus Christ.



Imagine no religion
All arguments about God could be ended easily. God is a mystery. No one could claim exclusive knowledge of God and his ways. All could be free to honor God in their chosen way. Converting others to our(God’s) way of thinking could be ended.
The various religions of the world have much good counsel to offer. Do we need rules? Of course we do, without rules we would have no civilization.
The problem arises when one invokes the name of God as the source of ones beliefs.
Nobody can argue with God. You can’t meet God face to face. God is a concept. You can’t see a concept. I have thoughts and you can’t see thoughts. You can’t see a mind.
An open mind entertains all possibilities. An open mind does not say I am right and you are in error. God can become the ultimate weapon in the hands of man. I can claim my knowledge is God’s knowledge. I am now not responsible for what I believe. It is in God’s holy scriptures so it can’t be argued. I can claim God is on my side. I have just turned God into the ultimate weapon.<
I believe in God, I just can’t define God for you. God is beyond my explanation.
Respectfully, Allan

Imagine no religion

This would depend on what you mean. If you mean ‘religion’ in the broad sense meaning a world view that attempts to answer ultimate questions about life and the universe, then everyone has a religion of a sort. For example, advocates of Humanism and Communism and Nazism can be every bit as ‘religious’ as any TV caricature of fundamentalists.

But if you mean an absence of theistic religion, we can imagine only too well. We have already seen the appalling human rights violations in atheistic Communist countries such as China, Cuba and the former Soviet Bloc countries.

All arguments about God could be ended easily. God is a mystery. No one could claim exclusive knowledge of God and his ways.

This is called agnosticism, and is itself a positive claim about God—i.e. that He is a mystery. But how can you know that God is unknowable?

All could be free to honor God in their chosen way.

This is also nothing new. But you might like to consider, just for the moment for the purpose of the argument, that God has indeed created us and therefore owns us, and has told us how He wants people to honor Him. Then the most ‘open-minded’ belief would be that we have a moral obligation to do as He requires. It would be closed minded and arrogant to decide to go one’s own way.

The ‘patron saint’ of such ecumenical thinking is Cain. Genesis 4 reveals that while Abel honored God in God’s way, by a blood sacrifice (as revealed by the blood sacrifice of Genesis 3:14, and expanded on in later parts of Scripture—Hebrews 9:22, ‘without shedding of blood is no forgiveness’), and God was pleased. But Cain decided to approach God with a bloodless offering, and God was not pleased. Then Cain compounded his error by becoming the first murderer.

Converting others to our (God’s) way of thinking could be ended.

Why? This in itself presupposes an absolute moral value, i.e. that converting others to our way is wrong. In your case it rebounds on yourself, since your letter is trying to convert us to your way, i.e. that there is no way.

The various religions of the world have much good counsel to offer.

On what grounds do you call them ‘good’? And how so, when they contradict each other on such ‘minor’ things as the nature of God, man’s destiny, and how to be saved (if applicable)?

Do we need rules? Of course we do, without rules we would have no civilization.

Under a worldview founded upon evolution from goo to you via the zoo, why is this a problem?

The problem arises when one invokes the name of God as the source of ones beliefs.

Rather, the problem arises when one tries to invoke absolute moral laws without an absolute moral Lawgiver. It’s precisely because the rules are made by our Creator that they can transcend human opinion.

What is the alternative, if we are simply rearranged pond scum? How do you derive the concepts of right and wrong from random mutations plus natural selection? Our moral sense would really be just the result of motions of atoms in the brain that happened to confer some survival advantage.

Nobody can argue with God. You can’t meet God face to face.

But the Christian claim is not that we can reach up to meet God face to face, but rather that He has reached down to meet us face to face. Christians believe that Jesus Christ ‘is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature’ (Hebrews 1:3), and that Jesus said, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9) and was right to claim this. More on this shortly.

God is a concept.

This is an assertion, which frankly doesn’t seem very ‘open-minded’ to the possibility that God is a real Being.

You can’t see a concept. I have thoughts and you can’t see thoughts. You can’t see a mind.

So are you denying that minds exist? Actually, the leading philosopher (modal logician) and Christian, Alvin Plantinga argued cogently that the evidence for God is just as good as the evidence for other minds; and conversely, if there isn’t any evidence for God, then there is also no evidence that other minds exist—see God and Other Minds, Cornell University Press, repr. 1990.

An open mind entertains all possibilities.

As the gifted writer and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton (1864–1936) pointed out, an open mind is like an open mouth—only good when it has something of substance to chomp into. And it’s our experience that those who talk about open minds the most are the most oblivious to their own biases (we all have them)—in your case, a bias towards agnosticism.

OK, what about the possibility that Jesus Christ really said what the Gospels claim He said, and that He was speaking the truth? In particular, that He claimed to be God and said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). The options are either acceptance or rejection. Are you ‘open-minded’ enough to believe what He said? Or are you actually, despite what you claim, telling us that He (Jesus) was wrong or was wrongly reported. Someone as open–minded as you claim to be should work through the following logic (from my article Loving God With All Your Mind: Logic and Creation, after C.S. Lewis’s famous Trilemma argument):

The reports of what Christ said are either true or false.

1) If the reports are false, the reporters either knew they were false or they did not.

    1a) If they knew they were false, they were liars—but who would die for what they know is a lie?

    1b) If they did not know, then it is a big problem to explain how legends could accumulate around a historical figure in such a short time.

2) If the reports are true, then Jesus was either speaking falsely or truly.

    2a) If Jesus spoke falsely He either knew it or he did not.

      2ai) If He knew, He was a liar.

      2aii) If He knew not, then He was a lunatic, since a claim to be God is the most absurd claim a mere creature can make.

    2b) If Jesus spoke truly, then He really is God.

An open mind does not say I am right and you are in error.

But you are saying that we are ‘in error’ for believing that Christ is the only way to God, and that you are ‘right’ to believe in religious relativism!

God can become the ultimate weapon in the hands of man.

Rather, a rejection of God has led to by far the worst atrocities in history. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) said in The Brothers Karamazov, ‘Without God, everything is permissible; crime is inevitable.’ The deaths under the evolution-based Communist and Nazi ideologies only last century, e.g. the Holocaust and the purges of Stalin and Mao, outweigh the grand total of all deaths in ‘religious’ wars throughout all preceding centuries. Also, those committing atrocities in the name of Christ were inconsistent with His teachings, while Communist and Nazi atrocities were consistent with those ideologies. It’s no accident that the Communist régimes persecuted Christianity and recently rediscovered documents show that Nazis planned to exterminate Christianity.

I can claim my knowledge is God’s knowledge. I am now not responsible for what I believe. It is in God’s holy scriptures so it can’t be argued. I can claim God is on my side. I have just turned God into the ultimate weapon.

The responsibility is to believe in the correct God.

I believe in God, …

But which ‘God’? Even the demons believe in one God, and tremble (James 2:19)

… I just can’t define God for you.

But you’ve just defined him as a ‘concept’ and even your claim that he’s undefinable is itself a definition.

God is beyond my explanation.

Again, you seem to have had a pretty good go at trying to explain this! But the solution is that God has chosen to explain Himself in the Bible and given ample reasons why the Bible should be trusted (see Q&A: Bible). Are you ‘open–minded’ enough to consider these?

Respectfully,
Allan

Respectfully,
Jonathan Sarfati


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