Nathan Pratt: My Journey to Atheism

Journey

Something I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that this post is going to be very honest. It’s a brief history of my religious upbringing, my crisis of faith and the final pushes to search for truth. Nothing I’ll say in this post is said out of anger or malice. It’s an honest portrayal of the extreme difficulty of leaving something you’d held to be truth for almost 30 years. I imagine that some of the topics and points will offend, but please read to the end.

One of the more frustrating things to come out of leaving religion is that so many theists think I haven’t thought this out. That I’m just going through a phase. I’d be willing to wager that I’ve gone much farther in my pursuit of truth than about any believer out there. I’ve put a staggering amount of time into this journey. So when people wave it away as I’m simply misunderstanding or I just need to hear the right words or verses it’s extremely insulting.

I hope that even if we never see eye to eye you’ll see how difficult this journey had been and how extremely hard I tried to make belief work. Here we go….

– My History –

I was raised inside a Southern Baptist family. My home church was Sunnyside Baptist in Hobart, IN. Both of my parents came from pretty terrible childhoods and they viewed religion and god as the thing that saved them. I don’t blame them for wanting that for me.

Being baptists things were pretty legalistic growing up. This is the bible and its truth can’t be debated. It is what it is. Continue reading

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Naturalists Faith in Multiverses

NoiseJunkienet

“If nature so ‘clever’ as to exploit mechanisms that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the universe?” asked a theoretical physicist Paul Davies, “If the world’s finest mind can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?”1 (Davies 1984: 235-6)

Stunning evidences on how complex and delicately fine tuned is the electrical to gravitational force ratio (N = 10 36), strength of nuclear binding (E = 0.007), normalized amount of matter in universe (Ω = 0. 3), normalized cosmological constant (Λ = 0.7), seeds for cosmic structure (Q = 1/100,000), number of spatial dimensions (D = 3)2 et cetera required for intelligent life permitting universe are piling up in the scientific community.

Our universe, as theoretical physicist Brandon Carter judged, according to Davies, is just right for life. “It looked like a fix – a big fix”(Davies 2007: x). This raises a further question. What is the most plausible explanation for the seemed big fixed values? Martin Rees gave three alternatives,

If our existence depends on a seemingly special cosmic recipe, how should we react to the apparent fine-tuning? There appears to be a choice between three options: we can dismiss it as happenstance [or coincidence]; we can acclaim it as the workings of providence; or (my preference) we can conjecture that our universe is a specially favored domain in a still vaster multiverse.(Rees 2005:  211)

For atheist scientists and philosophers, work of providence would be surrendering their entire worldview to theism, which view these increasingly modern scientific findings as resurging the argument from design.

Few are prepared to take the route that led a notorious atheist philosopher, late Antony Flew, to migrate from atheism to deism. Following where he thought the evidence led him, given the pilling evidences, Flew admitted that, “multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind.”(Flew 2007 120-1)

Philosopher Bradley Monton, who is less certain of his atheism after investigating arguments from design,  “think that there is some evidence for an intelligent designer, and in fact, [he] think that there is some evidence that that intelligent designer is God” (Monton 2009: 39) Unlike Flew, Monton does not think that the evidence is enough to make him stop being an atheist.

Rees on the other hand holds an agnostic position that “[w]e do not know whether there are other universes. Perhaps we never shall”(Rees 2005: 210). He would disagree with Flew’s conclusion. Rees supposes that multiverse can still be postulated as a genuine scientific explanation for the fine-turning of our universe. It is still likely that in the distant future, cosmologists would probably have a convincing theory that show whether a multiverse exists contended Rees. He went further,

But while we are waiting for that theory—and it could be a long wait—the “off the shelf” clothes shop analogy can already be checked. It could even be refuted: this would happen if our universe turned out to be even more specially tuned than our presence requires. (Rees 2005: 218)

George E. R. Ellis informed us that the idea of a multiverses, is increasingly receiving attention in the field of cosmology. Vilenkin, Lind, Guth, Smolin, Deutsch, Susskind, Sciama, Tegmark, and Rees are among proponents of different models of multiverses.

Ellis considered that “[t]he very nature of the scientific enterprise is at stake in the multiverse debate: the multiverse proponents are proposing weakening the nature of scientific proof in order to claim that multiverses provide a scientific explanation. This is a dangerous tactic.”(Ellis 2007) He contended,

The extreme case is multiverse proposals, where no direct observational tests of the hypothesis are possible, as the supposed other universes cannot be seen by any observations whatever, and the assumed underlying physics is also untested and indeed probably untestable.(ibid)

Exploring the evidences offered for existence of actual multiverses, Ellis concluded that these “proposals are good empirically – based philosophical proposals for the nature of what exists, but are not strictly within the domain of science because they are not testable”.  He finds multiverses theory not testable because it is so flexible and that it can accommodate almost any observation. “The multiverse theory can’t make any predications because it can explain anything at all.”(ibid)

Ellis concluded that both design and multiverse lack conclusive evidence thus both require an equal degree faith to be believed. “Despite scientific appearances, belief in multiverse is an exercise in faith”(ibid)

Martin Gardner shares Ellis’ position. He wrote,

The stark truth is that there is not the slightest shred of reliable evidence that there is any universe other than the one we are in. No multiverse theory has so far provided a prediction that can be tested. In my layman’s opinion they are all frivolous fantasies. As far as we can tell, universes are not as plentiful as even two blackberries. Surely the conjecture that there is just one universe and its Creator is infinitely simpler and easier to believe than that there are countless billions upon billions of worlds, constantly increasing in number and created by nobody. I can only marvel at the low state to which today’s philosophy of science has fallen. (Garder 2001: n.p)

Does multiverse actually exists? Maybe it does, maybe it does not. I would end by concurring with Ellis’ conclusion that “[t]he claim they exist is a belief rather than an established scientific fact. It is a reasonable faith with strong explanatory nature, but a belief none the less.”

Question: Does the multiverses explain the fine-tuning of our universe?

Bibliography:

Davies, Paul (1984) Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature. New York: Simon and Schuster.

_________ (2007) The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is The Universe Just Right For Life?. Penguin Books

Ellis, George E. R. (2007) The multiverse, ultimate causation and God. Talk at Emmanuel College 6th November 2007.

Flew, Antony (2007) There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. HarperOne

Gardner, Martin (2001) Multiverses and Blackberries: Notes of a Fringe-Watcher Vol. 25.5 , September / October 2001

Monton, Bradley (2009) Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends intelligent Design. Broadview Press.

Rees, Martin (2005) Other Universes: A Scientific Perspective in Ed. Neil A. Manson’s God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science.  Routledge.

 


[1] Davies rejects both multiverse and design as appealing to something beyond our universe. He holds to a kind of a self-designed universe.

[2] Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers

2 Marks Of A Noble Apologist

Seeks Proofs Of Her Faith

A noble apologist seeks proofs of certain doctrine of her faith not for the sake of attaining to faith by means of reason, as Anslem of Canterbury once said, but that she may be delighted by understanding and meditating on those things which she believes and always ready to convince any one who demands of her a reason of that hope which is in her.

A noble apologist is driven by an active love of God that seeks deeper knowledge of God. Faith seeking understanding.

Aware of Her Context

A noble apologist is aware of what God is already doing in the culture she trying to share her faith. As Paul, she labors to communicate the Gospel truth into a language, beliefs, values, symbols, traditions and practices that are already familiar in her given culture.

She is gifted with an ability of turning the ears of her listeners, in a given cultural context, into eyes to see the truth of the Gospel that could not easily be seen or understood because of cultural diversity.

A noble apologist walks in wisdom toward outsiders. She makes the best use of the time. Her speech is always gracious, seasoned with salt, so that she may know how she ought to answer each person. (Col. 4:5-6)

Question: What other marks are essential for Christian Apologist to faithfully fight the good fight, finish the race, and kept the faith?

Faith: Biblical Christian’s Definition

“Thoughts lead on to purposes;” writes Tryon Edwards, “purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny”. In other words, Edwards is trying to say, “Ideas have consequences”.

Faith as used in Christianity is among the most misinterpreted term. Caught in the strong downward streams of 18th century’s enlightenment, many Christians embraced “a strong belief in a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof”(Concise Oxford Dictionary) as a definition of faith.

Hebrews 11:1,6 “ Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the proof of things not seen… without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him” and 2 Corinthians 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (LEB) are often quoted as proof text to support this definition of faith,viz.: a belief without proof.

M.S. Mills in The Life of Christ attempted to answer the question why Jesus gave a sign (performed miracle) to his disciples at wedding in Cana (John 2: 1-12) but refused to give a sign on demand of the Jews in Jerusalem (John 2:13-22). Mills writes: “Why should this be so? I suggest that the logic of this position is something like this: if Jesus gave signs in order to make man believe, firstly, this would have substituted evidence for faith, and God has decreed that He wants man’s faith, not his rationale.”[1] Mills’ reasoning echoes the consequences of holding the idea that faith and rationale are not on the same page.

In this article I attempted to argue that God wants both man’s faith and man’s rationale. Faith as used in Christianity is “trusting what we have reason to believe is true”(J. P. Moreland)

Moule On Faith As Used In Common Speech

H. C. G. Moule, in The Fundamentals, wonderfully explained what the English term “faith” means in our daily speech. He wrote, “What does Faith mean in common life and speech? Take such phrases as, to have faith in a policy, faith in a remedy, faith in a political leader, or a military leader, faith in a lawyer, faith in a physician. Here the word Faith is used in a way obviously parallel to that in which, for example, our Lord uses it when He appeals to the Apostles, in the Gospels, to have faith in Him; as He did in the storm on the Lake. The use is parallel also to its habitual use in the epistles; for example, in Romans 4, where St. Paul makes so much of Abraham’s faith, in close connection with the faith which he seeks to develop in us.”[2]

N.T. And Definition of Faith

New Testament’s definition of faith could be described as a complete trust in and loyalty to the person and work of Christ Jesus (Eph 2:8). Faith is an allegiance to Christ Jesus.( Ga 1:23) Faith is both a spiritual conviction of the things physically unseen, namely the promises of God i.e., adopting and conforming us to the image of Christ Jesus, holy and blameless before Him and a rational conviction of the work of Christ Jesus, namely God incarnated was really crucified, really died, and really rose again because if He did not our allegiance, trust, and loyalty in Christ Jesus is in vain, worthless and a delusion.

In his first known letter to the Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus wrote: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hopein this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”(1 Cor. 15:12-19 ESV)

“Faith rests on what God has done in Christ for us once for all and in a universally valid way,” writes Ingolf U. Dalferth, “ and thus on God’s universal justification, whose converse that faith actually is” [3]

“Faith does not involve believing something without evidence.” argues Sean McDowell, “Rather, it is a trust in God in light of what we know to be true. Jesus healed the paralytic so the people would know that he has the authority of God (Mark 2:10).”

Faith And The Gospel According To John

In John 6: 29 we read “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” and John 20:30-31 “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” G. L. Borchert accurately concluded “[the author of John] was a great inspired artist and theologian who organized his episodes from the life of Jesus in such a way as to bring people to faith in Jesus as the Son of God.”

“Faith’s validation depends in part on the truthfulness of faiths object” D. A. Carson explained, “Faith as used in Christianity is not synonyms to religion or personal subjective religious choice not tied to truth or facts.” Moule concurs with Carson, “The virtue of Faith lies in the virtue of its Object.” The person and work of historical Jesus of Nazareth is the object of Christian faith.

Faith Is A Gift of God

Faith in Christ Jesus is a result of God’s salvation. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”(John 6:44a) No one has an ability to trust in Christ unless the Holy Spirit awakes what is foolishness to those who are perishing to the power of God as the Father draws us to the cross of His Son.

Paul of Tarsus argued, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”(Eph 2:8) Faith is a gift of God to see the power of the Cross, holding fast to its work as we abide in Christ.

So What About Hebrews 11:1,6 and 2 Corinthians 5:7

Reading the context of Hebrews 11:1,6, I discovered that faith is primarily used to designate truth, honesty, and loyalty to the character of God. The faith heroes named in Hebrews 11 knew their God. They both witnessed His mighty works and objectively experienced His presence. Thus faith is assurance in God’s trustworthiness, goodness and love (cf: Acts: 17:31)

Moule agrees with my observation of Hebrew 11. He writes ““If this[Hebrew 11:1] is a definition, properly speaking, it must negative the simple definition of Faith which we have arrived at above, namely, reliance… Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses—they all treated the hoped-for and the unseen as solid and certain because they all relied upon the faithful Promiser.”

Bob Utley echoes Moule “this[Hebrew 11:1] is not a theological definition of faith, but a picture of the practical outworking of it. The term is used twenty four times in this chapter. From the OT the primary idea is “faithfulness” or “trustworthy.” This is the opposite of apostasy. The Greek term for “faith” (pistis) is translated by three English terms: “faith,” “belief,” and “trust.” Faith is a human response to God’s faithfulness and His promise. We trust His trustworthiness, not our own. His character is the key.”[4]

Walking by faith and not by sight, in 2 Corinthians 5:7, is “a response which takes God at his word and acts upon it. Faith provides assurance of things we can only hope for and a certainty about things we cannot see.”(M. Anders)[5] Given Paul’s reasoning in 1 Cor. 15:12-19, it would be false to deduce that “not by sight” meant, “without prove”.

Thomas Aquinas explained that “faith pertains to the intellect as commanded by the will, it must needs be directed, as to its end, to the objects of those virtues which perfect the will, among which is hope” and “For this reason the definition of faith includes the object of hope”. He went on to ague that “Love may be of the seen and of the unseen, of the present and of the absent. Consequently a thing to be loved is not so adapted to faith, as a thing to be hoped for, since hope is always of the absent and the unseen… Substance and evidence as included in the definition of faith, do not denote various genera of faith, nor different acts, but different relationships of one act to different objects, as is clear from what has been said.”[6]

Faith: Last Words

It my hope that I kept my promise in attempting to argue that God wants both man’s faith and man’s rationale. Faith as used in Christianity is knotted to truth of the person of Christ Jesus and fact of a risen Son of God. I will end with C. S. Lewis quotes. He said, “Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”

How do you define faith? Could give reasons to why you define it that way? And what could be consequences of your understanding of what faith is?

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.

—Augustine


[1] Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record. Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.

[2] Torrey, R. A., Feinberg, C. L., & Wiersbe, W. W. Vol. 3: The Fundamentals : The famous sourcebook of foundational biblical truths (146–147). Public Domain.

[3] Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. (1999-2003). Vol. 2: The encyclopedia of Christianity (271). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (1999). Vol. Volume 10: The Superiority of the New Covenant: Hebrews. Study Guide Commentary Series (114). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[5] Anders, M. (1999). Vol. 8: Galatians-Colossians. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (354). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Thomas Aquinas, S., & Fathers of the English Dominican Province. (2009). Summa theologica (Complete English ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

God And Hardening Of Hearts

It was few minutes to 7 a.m. of February 16th in the city train, when I came across Joshua 11:20 in my morning readings, prayers and reflecting on the whole Bible in a year. In this verse, Joshua recorded the reason why the Canaanites: Jabin the king of Hazor and his companions did not seek truce but wage war against Israel (Joshua 11:1-19).

For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20 ESV)

This concept of hardening of heart was not foreign to me. I had wrestled with in Exodus 5-9 (God hardening pharaoh’s heart to display his glory) in Bible College almost 5 years ago. It is still hard to chew and swallow this passages. In this article I would share with you my reflection of Joshua 11:20, as I go through different commentaries trying to wrestle with it again. My aim is that we may rejoicing and delighting in God’s breathed words. Mostly in the tough ones like this.

God Harden Their Heart And Idiom

Raising the bar up, Robert G. Bratcher and Barday M. Newman in A translator’s handbook on the book of Joshua wrote:

Verse 20 provides the theological justification for the wholesale massacre of the people: the Lord “hardened their hearts” (see rsv), that is, made them proud and stubborn (tev determined to fight). Again the Hebrew verb condemned to total destruction is used, and it is said that this was done in obedience to the Lord’s command to Moses. (Bratcher & Newman: 1983: 166-7)

Bratcher and Newman argued that many languages would have idiomatic expression equivalent to “harden their hearts” of the Hebrew; e.g. “stiffen their necks” or “make their eyes glare.” With that in mind, in a plan language, Joshua 11:20 could be understood as:

So that they would be condemned to total destruction and all be killed without mercy may be changed to an active construction and translated as a separate sentence: “He did this so that the people of Israel would condemn them to total destruction and kill them all without mercy.”

This was what is somewhat ambiguous in tev. It actually refers only to the clause which begins so that; it does not refer back to the entire previous sentence. One may translate “The LORD had commanded Moses to kill all the people of the land.” (Bratcher & Newman: ibid)

God Hardening Their Hearts And Commentaries

In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Donald H. Madvig concisely commented on Joshua 11:20:

God hardened the Canaanites’ hearts, not to keep them from repenting, but to prevent them from surrendering to Israel in unrepentance. The examples of Rahab and the Gibeonites demonstrate the unchanging purpose of God that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). As in the case of Pharaoh, God may be said to harden the hearts of those who harden their own (cf. Exod 8:32 with Exod 9:12). God was patient as long as there was any hope of repentance (Rom 2:4), but the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure (Gen 15:16). The writer celebrated the annihilation of the Canaanites, which is so offensive to the modern mind, because he knew there was no other way that God’s gracious purpose could be fulfilled. (Madvig: 1992: 311-12)

As a person who is not satisfied with concise explanations, I want more. How do I deal with this “offensive” tough concept of “the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle”?

J. J. Lias quoted Julius Müller ‘Christian Doctrine of Sin,’ ii. 412, “Scripture never speaks of God’s hardening men’s hearts, save in connection with His revelations through Moses or Christ.” and point out how Joshua 11:20 evidently had not occurred to Müller in his writing. Lias went on to argued that:

We are not to suppose that the free-will of the Canaanites was in any way interfered with. God no doubt left them to themselves as the due punishment of their iniquities. Sin in general, by God’s own appointment, and especially the sensual sins in which the Canaanites were steeped, has a tendency to produce insensibility to moral or even prudential considerations, and to beget a recklessness which urges on the sinner to his ruin. Some have argued that had they all come, like the Gibeonites, as suppliants, they must all have been massacred in cold blood. But this is not likely. Rather we must imagine that God foresaw that they would not believe the signs He would give in favour of the Israelites, and that by meeting them in battle they brought a swift and speedy destruction on themselves. ( Spence-Jones: 2004: 192)

David M. Howard, Jr in The New American Commentary went deeper:

“Verses 19–20 show that the events of chaps. 10–11 were orchestrated by God himself. No city made peace with the Israelites as Gibeon had done (chap. 9); rather, Israel took them all in battle. The reason that no city took it upon itself to make peace with Israel was that God hardened their hearts so that he could completely destroy them. They had followed a pattern of opposing God by attacking the Israelites (see 9:1; 10:1–5; 11:1–5; and the comments introducing chap. 9). Thus, the text is stark and harsh: the idea and activity of hardening originated from God himself, and it was for the purpose of destroying the Canaanites through battle. The destructions wrought among the Canaanites had been anticipated and commanded by Moses (see especially Deut 7:1–5; 20:16–18). The people were to make no treaty with the Canaanites and show them no mercy (Deut 7:2). The Canaanites’ time for punishment had now come (cf. Gen 15:16).” (Howard: 2001: 273-274)

Howard also pointed out that God’s hardening the Canaanites’ heart recalls the drama in Exodus 9-11 viz.: God hardened the pharaoh’s heart and sent the plagues to show his glory and majesty. Pointing at Exodus 5:2 “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” and pharaoh’s repeatedly hardened his own heart (7:13–14, 22; 8:15), Howard argued that the drama of God hardening pharaoh’s heart is tied to pharaoh’s own defiance.

Thus, he continued:

God could have forced Israel’s release after just one plague, but his purpose was to display his own power against the Egyptians and against their gods (Exod 12:12 states this clearly: “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord”). God’s hardening of the pharaoh’s heart must be seen in the context of the pharaoh’s stubbornness and resistance of the Lord.

We must examine the Canaanites’ resistance to the Lord in a similar light. We have noted numerous times that the Canaanites heard (šmʿ) about Israel’s victories (2:9–11; 5:1; 9:1, 3; 10:1; 11:1) and that they reacted differently at different times. Rahab and the Gibeonites were Canaanites who were spared, even if they were for different reasons. Those Canaanites who resisted Israel and its God, however, were shown no mercy and were annihilated. God’s hardening of their hearts, then, was due, at least in part, to their own stubbornness and resistance of Israel’s God. Had they been willing to react as Rahab (or even the Gibeonites) had done, undoubtedly the results would have been different. (Howard: 2001: ibid)

Joshua 11:20 And The righteousness of the Lord

Roger Ellsworth in Opening Up Joshua takes another angle in expounding Joshua 11:20. He notices that modern reader, like me, are ‘put off’ by the gory details of Israel putting Canaanites to death during the conquest. He advised that:

We must keep in mind that these nations were utterly corrupt. They practised every perversion conceivable, even to the point of sacrificing their own children to their idols. We should also remember that these same nations were given every opportunity to turn from their wicked ways, as Rahab did (Josh. 2), but adamantly refused to do so (Gen. 15:16).

The judgement of these Canaanites was a declaration that God is righteous and will ultimately judge all sin. His patience ensures that his judgement comes slowly, but his righteousness guarantees that his judgement comes surely. Instead of lamenting the judgement of ancient Canaanites, we would do well to lament the judgement that will come our way if we do not repent(Ellsworth: 2008: 97-8).

He went on to argue that a part of God’s judgment is his hardening of human hearts. If not for his mercy all human, after the fall, do not seek to surrender to God. We keep rejecting God’s truth and as a result he judges us by hardening our hearts against the truth.

Reflections and Application:

Reading Joshua 11:20, as a fallen creature redeemed by the blood of Christ and continuously sanctified by the Spirit, I could not help it but reach the conclusion that would be predictable by a fallen man’s logic, viz.: Is God fair? Paul also anticipated this conclusion when he wrote to the Romans:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.(Romans 9:14-18 ESV)

God shows no injustice. We all receive justice, but for us whom God mercifully gave a new heart, and a new spirit put within us as the Holy Spirit removes the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26), His justice on us felled down on our Lord and Savor Jesus, at the cross.

We can demand God’s justice but never his mercy. Mercy is solely of God own pleasure.

After the fall, we are all Canaanites. We were hardening our hearts in sin. Paul would say “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”(Ephesians 2:3).

Glory to God that when we “did not see fit to acknowledge God”, He did not gave all of us up to our debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Roman 1:28). But gave his Son Jesus Christ(John 3:16-19 and Roman 5:8-9)

Reading Joshua 11:20 with Roman 1 in mind, I can see that God hardening of our hearts is not a cause of sin but a fruit of it.

A Prayer of Adoration

Holy God, like a Canaanite, I also was blind, deaf and dead in my sin. In my own freewill I hardened my heart. I could not come to Christ Jesus(John 6:44, 17:1-2,6,9,24). In my perishing, the message of cross of your Son was foolish to me (1 Corinthians 1:18), I did not love you O Lord, but you loved me. Thank you for drawing me to your Son. Thank you for the Holy Spirit breathing life in my dead body, sight in my blindness and your voice in my deafness. It is by grace you saved me through faith in the person and finished work of your beloved Son. O Lord all this, including my faith, is not my own doing; it is your merciful gift (Ephesian 2:8). Keep us falling in love with you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And like Joshua, may we walk in your ways. In Christ Jesus, my Lord and my God (John 20:28). Amen.

The Ending That Is The Beginning

It is few minutes to 11 a.m. of March 8th at home on my studying desk, when I finished my reflection and prayers on Joshua 11:20. Do I fully understand it now? Sadly no. But I can now delight with King David: “ Whatever Yahweh pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). Yes, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”(Psalm 115:3)

Have you wrestled with Joshua 11:20? Be kind and share it with us.

Bibliography:

Bratcher, R. G., & Newman, B. M. (1983). A translator’s handbook on the book of Joshua. Helps for translators. London; New York: United Bible

Gaebelein, F. E., Kalland, E. S., Madvig, D. H., Wolf, H., Huey, F. B., Jr, & Youngblood, R. F. (1992). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

The Pulpit Commentary: Joshua. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Howard, D. M., Jr. (2001). Vol. 5: Joshua (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Ellsworth, R. (2008). Opening up Joshua . Leominster: Day One Publications.

Leibnizian Argument And God of the Gaps

One of the popular objections to Leibnizian cosmological argument is that it commits god-of-the-gaps fallacy, viz.: filling in God in gaps which we yet cannot naturally explain. I totally agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in noticing the danger of evoking God into gaps that we yet to understand. Bonhoeffer warned: “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved”¹

Does Leibnizian cosmological argument commit this wrong reasoning? I do not think so. In my previous article, Youth Pastor And Joey the Atheist, I shared a popular deductive form of Leibnizian arguments as follows:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.(from 1&2)
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.(from 2 & 4)

Looking at premise 2, I can see how this form of outlining Leibnizian argument prima facie seems like committing “a-god-of-the-gaps”. But on a closer look one would notice that there is no gaps, in the first place, that needed a god to be pushed in.

Premise 2 could also be outline as follows:

2′. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is in an external cause.

The best of what scientific and philosophic indicates is that this external cause has to have the properties of timelessness, spacelessness, immaterial and non-physical. This is what we know from astrophysics and correct reasoning . There is no gaps that need to be filled here. Therefore this argument cannot be dismissed/swept under “God-of-the-gaps” rug.  As my fictional character Luke explained to Joey:

Joey: Okay, I can see what you are saying but why should that explanation be God?

Luke: Well, think of it, all of space-time reality, including all matter and energy, what we call the universe must have an external cause as the explanation of its existence. This cause must be a non-physical, immaterial being beyond space and time.

Joey: Go on.

Luke: There are only two sorts of beings that could fit this description: abstract object like number or an unembodied mind. We know that abstract objects can’t cause anything so the only candidate must be a transcendent unembodied mind, which we, Christians, call God.

As King David would say “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.”(Psalms 19:1-3 NIV) and Paul of Tarsus “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Roman 1:20 NIV)

What is your objection(s) to Leibnizian cosmological argument?

___________

¹Letters and papers from Prison (1997), p. 311

Article inspired by best friend Brap Gronk‘s comments in Youth Pastor and Joey the Atheist