King of the Marketplace

One of the reasons I write this blog is because of a deep sense of frustration.  In my view, the faith of Jesus Christ is the king of the marketplace of ideas and will inevitably win any honest competition between worldviews.  People in the world, however, are ignorant of this truth because Christians refuse to honestly address difficult questions concerning the faith.  In sticking to the flawed Christian thinking of the past by denying that any problems exist with traditional Christian beliefs, Christians denude the teachings of Jesus Christ of their true power and thereby prevent the spread of the gospel.  My methodology, therefore, has been clear.  I want to honestly address the difficulties of the faith and thereby promote the spread of the gospel.  Let us first examine why I think faith in Jesus Christ is the King of the marketplace and then examine the Christian traditions that retard the gospel.

The Most Coherent Plan for Mankind

As I have discussed in various essays, the Bible presents the most rational narrative of human origins, history and purpose of any world view.  In contrast to other belief systems, Christianity presents God as a personal being who is the source of natural law, design, consciousness, rationality, free will and love.  As described in the Bible, God wants loving fellowship with all human beings in a divine family.  Because human beings could not be created with the perfectly loving nature of the divine, we are incapable of living with God or with each other in harmony.  God’s plan to address this deficiency in created beings is to teach us divine love.  Because divine love is impossible for created beings without divine assistance, the essential first step in this process is to teach us our need of divine assistance.  For this reason, God demonstrates human need of His love, forgiveness and correction by putting us in a world where we experience the consequences of living without His help.  Seeing the horrific consequences of living without divine assistance, we are as willing as we possibly could be to accept divine help in the person of Jesus Christ who reconciles the divine character to inevitable human evil through an act of perfect love.

This is an astonishing worldview because it makes sense of all of reality.  Unlike religions like Islam where the purpose of human life is not to become part of the divine family nor to learn how to demonstrate divine love, the Christian worldview addresses the deepest desires of human beings for love and purpose.  Unlike materialism which can only explain rationality, consciousness, natural law, free will, design and love as delusions produced by evolution, Christianity explains these phenomena as indications of the nature of ultimate reality.  Unlike worldviews that believe in the essential goodness of human beings, this worldview explains the history of human evil and suffering.  From our desire for purpose and love, to the nature of the material and non-material phenomena we find around us, to the history of evil and suffering, a Biblical worldview can make sense of it all.

While the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible make more sense than any other belief system available to mankind, most people in the world think of Christianity as a joke and a laughingstock.  Why is this?  I believe it is because Christians have clung to the error of ancient traditions and thereby diminished the power of the gospel.  Like the medieval Catholic church staunchly defending the geocentric view of Aristotle against all evidence in order to preserve the traditional authority of the papacy, modern Christians deny plain and obvious facts and bring shame on the Lord Jesus Christ and His inerrant word.

Interpreting the Old Testament

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”   (Exodus 32:25-29)

When Christians deny the barbarism and sin that is obvious in the Old Testament, we make Christianity completely irrational and unappealing.  As I have discussed in a previous essay, who wants to go to Heaven if Moses and Aaron and the Sons of Levi were perfectly righteous in Exodus 32?  Does anyone want to slaughter all their friends and family?  Or go to a place where people who would obey this command without question would go?  When we Christians cling to the traditional teachings of the circumcision party described in Acts and deny the teachings of the first Christian martyr Stephen, we make the gospel ridiculous and rob it of its true power.  The truth is that the ancient Israelites were a group of horrific barbarians who make the modern day Taliban look like a troop of Girl Scouts.  If these people had any righteousness at all, it was a righteousness that came by faith in spite of their awful attitudes and actions.  The truth is that God’s astonishing power has transformed the most evil people of the ancient world into the most benevolent and rational people in the modern world.

Replacement Theology

Denying God’s love for and His blessing of the the nation of Israel is another example of Christian irrationality denuding the power of the gospel.  When Christians embrace Replacement Theology, they believe that God has cursed the Jewish people and thereby justify antisemitism.  This is a grievous sin before the Lord and makes Christian teaching appear to be a source of evil to people in the world.  The church has historically committed horrific crimes against the Jewish people and denying this obvious fact or retaining the evil beliefs that led to these crimes is irrational.  If we acknowledge the sins of Replacement Theology and repent of them, then we can defend the church as being on a learning curve and improving through repentance and growth.  If we insist that Replacement Theology is not an abomination or deny the role that it has played in antisemitism, then we make the gospel of Jesus Christ a laughingstock by saying that it justifies genocide and racism.

Church History and Political Power

Probably the greatest obstacle to the gospel in the modern West is the perceived political agenda of Christians and the Republican party.  People believe that if they agree that the Christian worldview is true or reasonable, then they are giving ammunition to a group of right-wing zealots who want to turn back the clock to the middle ages when churches ran society with an iron fist.  Women will not be educated or have careers, blacks will be kept in their place in ghettos or as slaves, books discussing evolution or having sexual content will be burned, the internet will be shutdown, environmental protection will be ignored, pornography and alcohol will be made illegal.  “Oh if only we could have a totalitarian nanny state that imposed Biblical principles on the entire nation.”  Christians are feared to think, “then everyone would be righteous and our nation would be pleasing to God.”

Unfortunately, naive Christian expectations concerning the efficacy of using Biblical principles as the basis for temporal government are disappointed when one examines the historical record.  Protestants and Catholics have attempted to impose governments based on Biblical principles on secular society and the result was a series of unmitigated disasters.  When the Christians seek to use political power for spiritual purposes, this tempts unbelievers to fake their allegiance to Christ, encourages bad doctrine for political expedience, empowers carnally-minded Christians within the church and denies the plain commands of the word of God.  The truth is that only believing in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit can make someone righteous before God and all the laws of the government are worthless in accomplishing this goal.  The truth is that spiritual objectives in a spiritual war can only be accomplished using spiritual weapons.  While Christians should vote their conscience, Christians must acknowledge and repent of the sins of church history by embracing the concept of separation between church and state.   As I have discussed in previous essays on abortion and Mitt Romney, the entire counsel of God must be brought to bear on political issues and Christians must dial back the “our opponents are the Anti-Christ” rhetoric.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord  (Zechariah 4:6)

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds (2 Corinthians 10:4)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  (1 Corinthians 5:12)

The Goodness of Man

If contrary to Scripture, Adam was as morally good as Jesus Christ in the Garden of Eden and capable of perfect obedience, then this world has no conceivable purpose and God has caused us a great deal of pain for no discernible reason.  If, on the other hand, created beings are inherently incapable of perfect divine love, then the suffering and evil of this world have a very reasonable explanation.  Why do Christians insist on a theology that teaches us that the created being Adam was morally good like Jesus Christ who was by His very nature self-existent, divine love?  The answer can only be sinful attitudes of pride and self-righteousness.

Human beings desperately long to be good on their own without divine assistance.  It is, in fact, this horrible and prideful denial that human beings need God in a fundamental and unavoidable way that necessitated the suffering of the world.  Though true Christians acknowledge their need of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of the sins of this life, they desperately cling to the last vestige of this pride by believing that Adam was good like Jesus Christ in the Garden of Eden.  “If only God wouldn’t have allowed Adam to be tempted in the garden”, this belief allows them to think, “then I would never have sinned and I would have been as righteous as Jesus Christ.”  Introduced by the church fathers, this view of human perfection before the fall allows for the possibility of eternal paradise without suffering and thereby denudes the Christian faith of the only possible justification for the grim reality of this world.

The Bible and Science

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (Proverbs 25:2)

As I have pointed out in one of the videos that I posted on YouTube, Christianity is more compatible with the pursuit of science than any materialistic worldview.  According to a materialistic worldview, there is no basis for studying science at all.  Why would the unreliable meat computer that we call the human brain be capable of understanding the universe?  Why would the universe even be expected to follow rational or mathematical principles?  Christianity, on the other hand, tells us that human beings are made in the image of a rational God who created everything according to His great wisdom and intended us to search for truth.

Not only is the Christian rationale for science the most compelling of all those that are available, but the results of scientific investigation heavily favour a Biblical worldview.  As described by an amazing YouTube apologist, recent mind-blowing experiments in Quantum Mechanics demonstrate the supremacy of mind in the observable universe.  The Cosmic Background Radiation and other powerful evidences for the “Big Bang’ indicate that all time, space, energy and matter had a beginning a finite amount of time ago.  Discoveries in physics, chemistry and other branches of science indicate that our planet, our solar system and the constants of physics are “fine-tuned” to allow for the long term existence of advanced life.  This evidence is so powerful that the only way materialist scientists can justify their rejection of God is by postulating the existence of an uncountable number of alternate universes and a “selection bias” they call the Anthropic Principle.  Evolutionary biology is the last bastion of materialism in the scientific world and even this stronghold would be utterly destroyed if not for the valiant efforts of Christians determined to cling to traditional errors.

Let us conduct a thought experiment.  Let us imagine that I were to take 20 pages to summarize the findings of modern biology.  This paper would discuss the astonishing complexity of the simplest forms of life, the amazing sophistication of the DNA/RNA/protein system, the information problem associated with the innumerable proteins found in the biosphere, the intricate internal structure of cells and cellular membranes, the irreducible complexity of many biological mechanisms and the meiotic penalty that makes the ubiquitous nature of sexual reproduction a puzzle for naturalistic explanations of life.  Let us say that I then presented this paper to the members of the National Academy of Sciences and asked them to describe the biosphere and all of its astonishing complexity in one of three possible ways:

  1. The product of a fully naturalistic evolutionary process.
  2. The product of a radically advanced alien technology subject to the process of evolution over billions of years.
  3. The product of divine design completed 5000 years ago.

Which response do you think would win out?  I honestly believe that the members of  the National Academy of Sciences would choose option 2 by a significant margin and agree that the biosphere we find around us looks like the product of a radically advanced alien technology that has been subject to the process of evolution for billions of years.  Why?  Because this is honestly what it looks like and I believe that scientists are honest enough to admit this.  Design is as obvious in biology as it is in other areas of science and even an ardent atheist like Richard Dawkins describes living organisms as things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.  If Christians dropped the insistence that the word yowm must refer to a period of twenty four hours and admitted that it could mean long periods of time, then all of science would provide an astonishing level of support for the resulting Christian worldview and a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Repudiating the Traditions of Man

The Revelation of Jesus Christ begins with our Lord dictating seven letters to seven representative churches.  In His letter to the last faithful church at Philadelphia, Jesus says that the church has only a “little strength”.  What does this mean?  I believe that Jesus is talking about the traditions of man denuding the power of the gospel as we have discussed above.  Because it comes after churches that have been a blemish on the name of Jesus Christ, the Philadelphian church has only a limited ability to impact the world.  This suggests, therefore, that Christians must repudiate the traditions of man and the errors of the historical church to be faithful to the word of God and have the power to spread the gospel.  How can this be done? Only by rigorously testing the traditions of the church to see if they are in line with the true teaching of Jesus Christ.

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  (Matthew 15:3)

but test all things. Hold on to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
This entry was posted in A Case for Christianity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to King of the Marketplace

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  5. Hello there!

    I have read the entire post, and I would just like to comment that all your other arguments rest upon premises that there is a deity that exists, that deity possesses a nature that has been described in the Bible, and that deity is known as God. It is this first premise that can be disputed.

    I say this because absent assertions that depend upon there being a deity, this post contains no information which tends to make the existence of a deity more likely. That Christianity offers an explanation of many things is nice, but it needs a deity there to be true. The same thing goes with all of your other arguments. If there is no deity, then there is no valid explanation.

    Examples of evidence for the existence of a deity would be recorded miracles or other phenomena which have causes ruled out by natural means. These things are what atheists like myself look for when asking for evidence of the existence of God.

    • Sirius,

      Wow. You read the whole post? That is impressive.

      “Examples of evidence for the existence of a deity would be recorded miracles or other phenomena which have causes ruled out by natural means.”

      I am assuming you mean here that you are looking for evidence of miracles where natural causation has been ruled out. This is a closed-minded position since it is impossible to rule out natural causation. Is it possible that you are living in a Matrix style virtual reality simulation? Would such a system lie within the confines of “naturalistic causation”? Surely it would. Given the overwhelming explanatory power of naturalistic causation, it is irrational and closed-minded to say that you will only consider supernatural explanations when natural causation has been completely ruled out. Examples of naturalistic causation used to exclude supernatural phenomena include, mass delusion, waking dreams, multiple universe, incredibly improbable chance, evolution, drug induced hallucination and fraud. Could any conceivable miracle lie outside the capacity of such a suite of natural causes? It is not possible and the decision to place such a burden of proof on the supernatural is identical to the decision to disbelieve in the supernatural a priori. If that is your choice, that is your choice but don’t fool yourself that you are being rational. It is not becoming.

      • There are two ways to respond to your comment.

        First, what I mean by natural phenomena are instances that I have evidence for and are commonly more likely explanations for the evidence in question. So, for example, if you have someone with stigmata that is in a coma under watch by surveillance suffer new wounds, we could rule out most natural phenomena. To argue the Matrix would be quite disingenuous of me, as I would be arbitrarily asking you to disprove a hypothetical construct in addition to providing evidence.

        Secondly, although I was unclear what I meant by “ruling out natural causes,” I really do mean a simple offering of common causation. For example, if I told you that Cthulhu let me walk on water yesterday, you could use evidence of human body density being capable of breaking surface tension as a reason for not believing me.

        Really, I’m not trying to set the bar so high that all conceivable phenomena are ruled out, just ones which ordinary experience would rule out.

        This is also why I demand testable evidence. Because if I get news of, say, a three year old that is blind and deaf but could draw angels with fingerpaint, people can go investigate further. That really is the most important and critical point of what I demand for evidence.

        Now, I get that it may seem like I’m self-serving here, but really people like me are looking for something more than just someone’s word that all this is true.

        Or, putting it another way, even Thomas got to put his hands on the wounds.

      • Sirius,

        I think atheists have a tendency to dismiss the evidence of design from biology and cosmology far too easily. When I look at the evidence for the idea that natural selection and random mutation is capable of producing the vast amount of information in the biosphere I find it woefully inadequate and the obvious conclusion is some kind of intelligent input was required. This, the evidence of design found in the constants of physics and the fact that the creation account in genesis was consistent with the findings of science (see my post “Jesus Christ the One and Only” for more details on that) was enough for me to give Christianity the old college try. When I did, I found additional evidence to support my faith in the Bible itself. (I am currently putting together a post containing my views on the reliability of the Bible that contains other pieces of evidence from the Bible.)

        You do understand that by demanding testable evidence, you are demanding that your “faith” not actually be faith? You mention Thomas, but you should note that Thomas only got to put his hands in Jesus wounds after following Jesus for three years despite the fact that the Jewish leadership reacted negatively to him. He was probably one of the disciples of John the Baptist who went after Jesus and he may, therefore, have been pursuing God for a number of years before his faith was rewarded by seeing the miracles of Jesus’ ministry culminating in the resurrection.

        I read your post where you contemplated suicide. As a man who for many years would look over the edge of a building and think that there was no good reason not to throw myself off, I believe I may have some understanding of where you are coming from. I am very grateful that I was not born into the church as you were (the LCMS was it?). When I came to Christ while in graduate school at UCLA, I learned the Bible for myself without any preconceived notions. The quest for an eternity of love and joy that is central to the Bible as I understand it cured me of my depression and suicidal tendencies. I will pray that you find that which will satisfy your longing and give you a reason to live.

        God Bless,

        rob

      • Well, my depression is the result of Major Depressive Disorder. It did help me realize some of the mental gymnastics my earlier faith had me performing to keep it. In that regard, I am well aware that I do not want faith, but rather I do want reasonable belief.

        Depressive disorders are terrible things, and that is also why I am not anti-theist. If people need to believe in God to realize that they are better in this world, I will not begrudge them that tool. Any means necessary is perfectly valid when dealing with something that could end up killing oneself.

        As for the evidence of design in biology, mutations nowadays may not appear so quickly in larger creatures. At least in early geological history, our atmosphere might not have protected from radiation as well as it does today. Therefore, mutations could have happened faster as well as occurring over billions of years. Happily, the fossil record can help to determine whether or not this might be true.

        The same thing goes with cosmology. Yes we have life on our planet, and based on how matter works we currently appear to be the only planet that can support life within our galactic neck of the woods. The universe is a big place, though. We would need to uncover more of it to get a better sense of certainty as to the nature of how life can form. For me, “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable explanation at this juncture.

      • Robert V says:

        I have given a good deal of thought to your response. For me, I don’t think “I don’t know” is adequate given the totality of the evidence. When I look at the astonishing complexity that is the characteristic of biological systems, “I don’t know” just doesn’t seem to cut it. “I don’t know but it sure looks like the product of a super-human intelligence” is much closer. I will pray for you and your battle with depression.

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