Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Thanks to Charlie Jordan for finding this. The atheist who wrote this article, Matthew Parris, describes the regeneration associated with faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in a far more moving and convincing way than most Western Christians. I recommend you read the whole thing

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

read it all here

I have said in the past that science could neither prove nor disprove God, since the supernatural could never be subject to the scientific method. However, science could point towards God, as a reasonable conclusion of scientific discovery.

If you want to know why atheists seem to have given up the scientific card, the current issue of Discover magazine provides part of the answer. The magazine has an interesting story by Tim Folger which is titled “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator.” The article begins by noting “an extraordinary fact about the universe: its basic properties are uncannily suited for life.” As physicist Andrei Linde puts it, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”

Too many “coincidences,” however, imply a plot. Folger’s article shows that if the numerical values of the universe, from the speed of light to the strength of gravity, were even slightly different, there would be no universe and no life. Recently scientists have discovered that most of the matter and energy in the universe is made up of so-called “dark” matter and “dark” energy. It turns out that the quantity of dark energy seems precisely calibrated to make possible not only our universe but observers like us who can comprehend that universe.

Even Steven Weinberg, the Nobel laureate in physics and an outspoken atheist, remarks that “this is fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.” And physicist Freeman Dyson draws the appropriate conclusion from the scientific evidence to date: “The universe in some sense knew we were coming.”

Folger then admits that this line of reasoning makes a number of scientists very uncomfortable. “Physicists don’t like coincidences.” “They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea.”

read the whole thing here

hat tip to standfirm for digging this up

full text from my lecture at St. Paul’s Theolgoical Center.  Unedited, please forigve spelling mistakes!

Naturalism and Atheism

The Crisis of Unknowing


Robert Sturdy, Rector of Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach


Sometime in the late 14th century, an anonymous British mystic wrote these words to an aspiring “religious”,

But now thou askest me and sayest, “How shall I think on Himself, and what is He?” and to this I cannot answer thee but thus: “I wot not.” For thou hast brought me with thy question into that same darkness, and into that same cloud of unknowing, that I would thou wert in thyself. For of all other creatures and their works, yea, and of the works of God’s self, may a man through grace have fullhead of knowing, and well he can think of them: but of God Himself can no man think.. [1]

The booklet, known as The Cloud of Unknowing is a classic in the Christian mystic tradition.  And though the purpose of the book is to instruct in the spiritual life (with a somewhat dubious thesis I might add) it nevertheless clearly demonstrates the crux of the difficulties involved in the current discussions in the academic and popular spheres on the subjects of naturalism and atheism.  I would draw your attention to two things before we begin in earnest courtesy of our obscure British monk.

 His assessment of the ability of the rational mind to contemplate the material world is enormously optimistic.  “For of all other creatures and their works, yea, and of the works of God’s self, may a man though grace have fullhead of knowing.”  In other words the anonymous mystic, though he predated modern science and the cultural movements of enlightenment, modernity, and post-modernity as well as the monumental scientific achievements that accompanied them, would no doubt be quite enthusiastic about the knowledge that such movements have accumulated of the material world.  While terms such as DNA, CODONS, and Genome would no doubt have mystified our monk, he would not have been surprised that humans had the capacity to discovery such things, and with time and God’s grace one day would.  Our monk is absolutely committed to the potential of rational, scientific man to unravel the mysteries of the material world.

The second thing I would like to draw your attention to is our monk’s deeply ingrained pessimism for natural man with his natural capacities to draw definitive conclusions beyond the material world.  “All other creatures and their works, yea, and of the works of God’s self, may a man through grace have fullhead of knowing, and well he can think of them:  but of God himself no man can think.”  How we come to a knowledge of God is a deeply complex and much debated issue within the tradition of Christian theology, nevertheless, one thing we are agreed upon within “orthodox” thought is that natural man cannot come to a knowledge of God without God purposefully and supernaturally revealing himself “for no one comprehends the thoughts of God” (1 Cor 2.11).  Rational and scientific man unsuccessfully storms the limitations of his nature when he seeks to make definitive statements on the supernatural world. 

Our topic this evening is Naturalism and Atheism.  Over the course of this lecture I hope to equip you with a basic definition of terms to fruitfully explore these topics in greater detail on your own.  I also hope to place modern naturalistic and atheistic thought within its appropriate cultural context.  As we begin this journey you will be introduced to important figures in this conversation as well as their arguments.  Which brings us back to our monk and his thoughts on the abilities and limitations of natural man as well as the main point of this lecture.  In seeking through rational and scientific faculties to make determinations on the supernatural, contemporary naturalism and atheism have madly overreached their abilities while their limitations have been kept carelessly unnoticed.  They have entered into a cloud of unknowing and the real crisis is that neither they nor their followers have even recognized the massive epistemological predicament that they have blindly stumbled into. (more…)

AwakeningGrace readers continue their fixation with Hell.

1) To Hell with it…(or) why Americans are losing their belief in Hell
2) John Lennox and Richard Dawkins duel over God, monkeys, and martians
3) Canadian doctors hate that Sarah Palin kept her down syndrom baby

and this one was climbing fast but didn’t make the top three. The first in our “Help me read the Bible” series led out by no one less that Martin Luther! Check it out here

I spent some time with John Lennox while I was at Oxford (I doubt he’d remember me). He was a guest preacher at Wycliffe from time to time and taught one or two courses on apologetics. One of my more memorable conversations with him was over a pint of bitter at the Trout pub just outside of town with my dear friend Tom Yearwood who is close to John. Lennox is a fiesty Irishman, brilliant mathematician, and committed Christian. Check out this major development below..

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn’t believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that

…all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection…Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

read it all here

In January 2005, two remarkable events occurred. The first was that Oxford atheist and Darwinian scientist, Richard Dawkins, was publicly asked what he believed to be true but could not prove. This was an interesting question because he is on record as saying that you should not believe anything without evidence. Now he concedes, “I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all design anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.” He continued, “ Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.” In other words, he admits that much of what he believes, including his fundamental assumptions about the universe, are a blind leap of faith, unsupported by evidence.

The other extraordinary event was that the international doyen of philosophical atheism, Prof. Anthony Flew, now aged 81, publicly announced that he has abandoned his atheism, and had done so on the basis of scientific arguments, which now persuade him that there is a God.

So two of the most prominent atheists in their fields have made startling confessions. The scientist admits that much of his belief cannot be supported by scientific evidence, while the philosopher abandons the very atheism that made him famous, precisely because of the scientific evidence. How much intellectual fun is that?

What Dawkins cannot verify concerns the creation of the universe. What persuades Flew that there is a God is the current scientific evidence about the origins of the universe.

So let us begin at the beginning! This is the Cosmological argument.

read it all here