Who Made God? Part 1

Recently, when I was perusing the shelves at one of my favorite bookstores, I found a book on display called If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?: 130 Arguments for Christian Faith. It’s an anthology of writings from different apologists. The book calls each piece an argument, and some are arguments (albeit bad ones), but a lot of the short pieces are just… bad excuses that apologists have for why it’s okay that their bible and their beliefs don’t make sense.

The book consists of ten sections:

1. Apologetics: Introductory Issues
2. The Existence of God
3. The Scriptures: Their Origin, History, and Accuracy
4. Jesus Christ
5. Theology
6. Science and Faith
7. Ethics
8. Heaven, Hell, and the Spiritual Realm
9. Cults and World Religions
10. Evangelism

Since some of these sections are shorter than others, and I’ve never made an apologetics series longer than five posts, I might condense some sections together. But regardless, for today’s post I read Section One, which contained nineteen “essays”.

The first essay, “What is Apologetics?” by Kenneth D. Bon is a very matter-of-fact definition of what apologetics is. It emphasizes that it is a defense of the faith, and as anyone familiar with 1 Peter 3:15, knows, you’re told to “give a reason for the hope that is within you.” This defensive position makes me question such “attacks” against atheists by apologists, such as “atheists need faith too.” Real apologetics takes the defensive position, as it should, with the burden of proof in any case in which the apologist’s opponent is simply a nonbeliever.

“How Should We Handle Unresolved Questions About the Bible?” by Paul Copan is the first of several essays trying to give justifications about why the bible has contradictions and in many cases, no evidence that the events described actually occurred. Most of it involved how we can’t expect the authors to have written everything perfectly, and the ultimate advice on how to cope is just that we have to live with unresolved answers and may find out sometime in the next life.

Several essays (on various and unrelated topics) later, the topic came back up, this time in “Writing History—Then and Now” by Kirk E. Lowery. His main defense of biblical discrepancies is very remnant of Ken Ham’s style of defending young-earth creationism. Lowery says that there are two definitions of history: what actually happened, and the telling of what happened. He criticizes modern historians who are skeptical about old writings in that it’s nearly impossible to know what objectively happened in the past given the biases of both the author and the reader.

Later on, in an attempt to defend the messiness of the bible’s writers, he says, “They did not have precision . . . in mind when they wrote,” and later still, “The process [of understanding the ancient texts] is similar to watching a film, where one must grant the filmmaker the premise of the film and even suspend belief in how the world should work before the message of the filmmaker can be perceived.” I know that the bible isn’t supposed to be completely clear on the very first try. It is at least from a very different culture and time than what the modern reader is used to, but the meaning of the stories should still come through, and this in no way excuses what should be a divinely inspired book for being riddled with contradictions.

9781433676017_p0_v2_s600x595Several of these authors are also really hung up on the idea of self-defeating statements, most notably J. P. Moreland, author of “What are Self-Defeating Statements?” The most common argument I hear in this realm is generally aimed towards nihilists and those who say “Nothing has any meaning,” to which one would respond, “Does your statement that nothing has meaning have meaning or not?” Moreland applies this type of argument to statements that it really doesn’t work with, like “Only what is testable by science can be true,” because the veracity of that statement itself can’t be tested by science. This may or may not be the case, but I think that there is some legitimacy to similar ideas, such as saying that only that which can be measured exists within the world of naturalistic science.

I can understand that in the Christian world, it might be common to see a lot of statements as contradictory when they’re not. It might sound self-defeating to an apologist for an atheist to criticize their morals when we don’t even have divinely prescribed morals, or to work so hard to reduce gun violence when we also allow women to choose to get abortions. I don’t personally think that either of these are contradictory, but they’re topics for another day.

This section of Who Made God? had a lot of other random essays sprinkled throughout, like “What is Divine Revelation?” by Gordon R. Lewis, “Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?” by David A. Horner, and “Why So Many Denominations?” by Charles Draper. So there’s a lot going on in this book that has no rhyme or reason, but maybe there will be more coherence in the next section, “The Existence of God”.

 

12 Replies to “Who Made God? Part 1”

  1. If your understanding of God is that He has to be like a human, with no more power than a human has, it is no wonder that you are skeptical. My God can create a world and everything in it. My God set up all the laws of physics that always work. He gave us elements that always work the same way. He created the planets whose movements are so predictable that we can know where they are going to be a century from now. If your god can’t do these things, I am not surprised that you would move on to other things like studying the creation, and forget about the creator.

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  2. For me, and Im sure for others, the difference between science and religious belief is that science never accepts anything on say-so, and they are totaly not afraid to admit ‘this is what we know, but this is what we’re aiming to know better.”
    Believers never get to that point. For them, it’s believe what X says, or be damned for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Once again, I have to admire your will to read and review books like this for us. I like how these apologists acknowledge that the Bible wasn’t written with precision, or that many things are unresolved, as if their God couldn’t get someone to write his Bible perfectly, if not write it himself. Having belief in a perfect afterlife is a nice backstop for Christianity it would seem.

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  4. I like your approach in this analysis/review. I am considering an essay on how I view the bible (or bibles or Judeo-Christian scripture). Your review here and much of what you post has helped me think through how I was to state it.

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  5. It’s not that only what is testable by science is true. We, of course, can’t know that for certain. It’s that science is the best means we have to acquire truth. Science is dependant on reason and reason is by necessity the only means by which we obtain knowledge. Until another means is found, we’ll just have to rely on reason.

    At least, that’s the way I see it right now.

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    1. Science can tell you a great many things about the physical world, but doesn’t even scratch the surface, when it comes to understanding ancient value systems, and why they persist. If anyone would start to say, it is all about survival of the fittest, then one must realize that the argument breaks down precisely at that juncture. Science can tell you all about the laws of thermodynamics, and general relativity, but nothing about why they are what they are or how they go that way. Reason on the other hand allows us to analyze the best scientific evidence, and make a decision about what we belief based on our reasoning of that evidence.

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      1. Reason and science go hand in hand with each other. But actually, science can tell us alot about the whys and hows of thermodynamics and general relativity, if you can be bothered to look it up. If their are gaps in our understanding, then it just means we don’t know it yet, we certainly don’t need to turn to something other than science to fill these gaps.

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      2. Not sure I understand your separation of reason and science here. Science uses reason to make its conclusions.

        Beyond that I think you’ve missed the main point Olive was making which is that other ways of acquiring knowledge are simply less reliable. So there are very careful methodologies that try to prove historical facts, but as we go back in time the fact that we have writings in dead languages, not easily translatable, scant sources, and the fact that even the absence of writing about some historical event of significance calls in doubt whether that event even happened. Because as much as it’s hard to understand ancient value systems, it’s also hard to understand ancient storytelling norms and what were considered important events, or important social change. Either way, what reason tells us is that historical writings of events are flawed and that these do not represent facts in the same way that science uncovers facts.

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  6. It’s crazy-making, isn’t it. God invented everything–but if you get really existentially curious, you ask, “who invented god” and without a moment’s hesitation, someone says, “God has always existed”. Or, “Why did God invent everything” and someone says, ‘Because it was meant to be.” or, sententiously, “We are not to know God’s purpose” which usually follows hard on the heels of someone explaining God’s plan for us.

    And they wonder why we don’t take this seriously? If we gave those kinds of non-answers on a test, we’d be booted out of the class.

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  7. Re “Nothing has any meaning,” to which one would respond, “Does your statement that nothing has meaning have meaning or not?” This is a typical apologetical approach: oversimplification. What is actually being claimed is that nothing has inherent meaning, outside of one’s own thinking.

    We tell children stories which end with ‘And the moral of the story is …” This could easily be translated as “And the meaning of the story is …” as we share with one another what our “meanings” are. This is basically what apologetics are: supplying meaning where none is perceived. Basically this is impressing meaning upon events or descriptions where none is inherently available.

    Consider the following scenario: everyone on Earth magically disappears. What happens to all of the “meanings” of those people? Basically they vanish. But a few people wrote their meanings down in books. Later an alien species comes to investigate our civilizations. They find many books left behind and after a bit of a struggle they are able to read some of them. What do you think they will make of our “meanings?” I suggest that they would be about as clear as mud to them, much like we interpret ancient Maya or Egyptian writings today.

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