Monday, June 9, 2014

All Around the Web - June 9, 2014

The Gospel Coalition - Celestial Teapots, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, and Other Silly Atheist Arguments
You have to pity the modern atheist who attempts to present arguments for her cause. Unmoored from any respectable intellectual tradition, each generation is forced to recreate anti-theistic arguments from scratch. The result is that the claims which they believe to be clever and damning often turn out to be—to use a technical philosophical phrase—just plain silly.

Take for example, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. According to Wikipedia, The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of a parody religion founded in 2005 by Oregon State University physics graduate Bobby Henderson to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution. In an open letter sent to the education board, Henderson professes belief in a supernatural Creator called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which resembles spaghetti and meatballs. He furthermore calls for the “Pastafarian” theory of creation to be taught in science classrooms, essentially invoking a reductio ad absurdum argument against the teaching of intelligent design. (The FSM has been popularized widely on the web, especially by the otherwise charming folks at BoingBoing .)

What Henderson actually showed was (a) a profound ignorance of the design argument, (b) a profound ignorance of what the Kansas board was actually proposing, and (c) that OSU should require physics graduates to take courses in philosophy. But what Henderson was trying to get at, though he doesn’t seem to grasp his own point, is similar to what Bertrand Russell was arguing with his “celestial teapot” analogy. In the famous passage from “Is There a God?”, Russell writes:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

Russell’s rather unoriginal argument has also been rehashed by atheism’s most unoriginal apologist, Richard Dawkins. Both Russell and Dawkins (and everyone else who uses this line of reasoning) attempt to argue along the lines that “If the existence of X (celestial teapots, FSMs, God) has not been disproven, it does not follow that X exists, or even that it is reasonable to believe that X exists.”
This point is both obvious and uncontroversial. The problem comes when they try to suggest, as philosopher William Vallicella says, “that belief in God (i.e., belief that God exists) is epistemically on a par with believing in a celestial teapot. Just as we have no reason to believe in celestial teapots, irate lunar unicorns (lunicorns?), flying spaghetti monsters, and the like, we have no reason to believe in God.”

Timothy George - Troubled Waters
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America and has been since around 1960 when it bypassed Methodism in this category. Riding the wave of the post-World War II evangelical boom, Southern Baptists long ago moved beyond their old confines south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Southern Baptist churches are now located in all of the fifty states. Led today by the Reverend Fred Luter, their first African-American president, Southern Baptists have become one of the most ethnically diverse and multilingual denominations in the country.

But all is not well in the Southern Baptist Zion. For some years now, annual church statistics have shown that the SBC is losing members. Although there are still more than 46,000 congregations affiliated with the SBC, total membership has fallen by upwards of one million since 2005—from 16.6 million members in that year to 15.7 million members in 2013. The loss of membership is reflected in another disturbing decline: the downward spiral of baptisms. The number of baptisms in the SBC has plummeted from an all-time high of 419,000 in the year 1999 to a low of 310,368 in 2013. That is the smallest number of baptisms since 1948 when Baptist president Harry Truman was in the White House.

To respond to these concerns, a “Pastors’ Taskforce on SBC Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms” was established last year. The group will present its report at the annual meeting of the SBC in Baltimore in just over a week. Unlike many bureaucratic studies, this report is remarkable for its candor and for the stark analysis it presents.

Trevin Wax - The God Who Shows Off Broken Seashells
Our six-year-old is enthralled with seashells. On our recent vacation, she collected shells, put them next to our beach chairs, and praised each one’s distinctive elements. “Look at the color of this one, the shape of that one, the size of this one.”

The only problem was, most of the shells were broken.

Strictly speaking, our daughter didn’t have a collection of seashells but a pile of fragments. We had to watch where we walked, because if we stumbled into the jagged edges, our bare feet would let us know.

“These are broken, honey,” I say.

“Yes, but look at the colors, the shape, the edges.”

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things Young Church Leaders Need to Hear from Us
  1. We were young once, too.  It may have been a few years ago, but we remember the passion and idealism of our young days. We also know experientially what happens when our zeal overshadows our commitment to lovingly guide those we shepherd. In many ways, we’ve been where you are going – and we want to help.
  2. We grieve the state of the North American church just like you do. We know the church is not growing. Some of us, in fact, remember when churches did make a difference. Sometimes when we speak longingly about yesterday, it’s not because we just want to go back to days gone by; it’s because we remember days when the church seemed healthier and the world seemed more willing to listen.
  3. Many of us must admit we were not discipled well. We are often the product of churches that evangelized without a similar commitment to discipleship. If we don’t think as deeply or as theologically as you would like, sometimes it’s because we’ve not been taught. Lead us humbly and patiently, and you may find us quite ready to learn.
  4. We need each other. To put it simply, we need each other to fulfill the 2 Timothy 2 and Titus 2 call for older believers and younger believers to learn together. We need you to help us navigate a rapidly changing world, and you need us to help you make wise choices in that world. At the risk of being too pragmatic, we also need our combined resources to accomplish the work of the Great Commission.
  5. Education can increase your knowledge, but life experience can increase your wisdom. We want you to be educated. We know from experience, though, that education itself doesn’t fully prepare us for leadership. What you think you will do is not always what you actually do when dealing with real people and real problems. We want to help you avoid the mistakes we made.
  6. Our opposition to change is not always opposition to you. Think about it. We might be now facing life-altering change we can’t stop. Age forces us to retire. We can’t remember as much as we did. Our friends and loved ones are dying. Health declines. With all these changes happening, the one place we hope to find things the same is our church. Wanting to hear a hymn again may be a cry for anything that reminds us of a seemingly safer, calmer world.
  7. We want you to be effective and successful leaders. We may struggle at times with change – but we don’t want to be obstacles as you lead us toward healthy church growth. Others helped us when we were young, and we want to do the same for you. When we call you our “young preacher,” we often do that with pride. Love us, and we can be your best friends.
  8. Godly obedience does not get easier. We were sure life would eventually be less chaotic, and we’d have more time to devote to God. Surely temptations would eventually lose their power. If that time comes, I’ve not yet reached that age. Some battles are different now, but some have never changed. I’m as dependent on the grace of God today as I was thirty years ago.
  9. Decide today to end well. We’ve seen too many Christian leaders fall. Truth is, we’ve been some of those leaders. For that reality, we ask your forgiveness. We want you to hear what we’ve learned, though: no fallen leader leaps into a fall. We slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, slide into a fall. No marriage or ministry falls apart overnight. Please put the boundaries up now to avoid such a fall.
  10.  We love you and pray for you. We really do

CNS News - Poll: 42% of Americans Believe God Created Humans 10,000 Years Ago
A new survey shows that 42% of Americans believe God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and an additional 31% believe that humans evolved from simpler life forms over millions of years but that God has guided that evolution.

Only 19% of Americans said they believe humans evolved over millions of years without any guidance from God, the Gallup poll reported.

The survey also showed that for Americans who attend church weekly, 69% think God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and for those who attend church “nearly weekly/monthly,” 47% believe that God created humans within the last 10,000 years.

10 seconds after the Lego Movie

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