Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Doubt and Faith

I’ve been thinking about Christianity and belief lately. Here are two thoughts: First, in Romans 10:9 (NIV), Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

So, God doesn’t say, “If you are happy all the time,” or “If you obey me all the time,” or “If you never have doubts or questions or heartache. . . then you will be saved.” It gives me reassurance to know that even if we have come to God with the wrong motives, or let the right ones slip away, he does not forget us or condemn us for that. He continues to love us and invite us closer to him.

Second, I just watched a very engaging debate between Christian philosopher Alister McGrath and atheist author Christopher Hitchens at Georgetown University. You can watch it for free online and I think you'll enjoy the issues brought up.

Personally, I was surprised by the presentations the two men made. You can decide for yourself who answers the questions more cogently. It's about an hour and forty minutes long (but you can watch as much or as little as you like). Very much worth the time.

After watching the debate, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Chris said...

Sorry, but that debate drove me up the wall and over it.

The atheist (or whatever he called himself) was completely "strait-forward". He was quick and to the point, wasting no time in attempting to tear our religion to shreds. But the Christian was giving us back-story that I could've lived without and history lessons I could also have lived without. I would have loved to see him fight for the morality of our belief. I would've also liked to see some truth about Creation brought up (for instance, the fact that scientists have now decided to accept that there was an intelligent Creator for our vast universe).

But when that anti-Jesus dude started talking about Muslims as if they were a branch of Christianity I turned it off. The lack of true knowledge and spiritual understanding (over mental understanding) was sickening.

I think you should go debate an Atheist. Just don't shift your weight (makes you look nervous) or use the phrase "I don't know" (I 'bout lost it then too).

Okay, I'm finally done posting a comment, thanx for reading!

Doc Op said...

Thanks Stephen, for providing this link. I listened to it while doing other things, and will listen again with a tuned ear. I too was surprised by the debate on several levels. First, I must confess that I very much like Christopher Hitchens and am taken by his candor.

I appreciated the kindness and civility of Mr. McGrath (Christian) and found him to be a very capable opponent. Perhaps the greatest weakness of Mr. McGrath was his very civility. He came across as a diplomat, which may be desirable if you are looking to suppress hostilities or find common ground from which to work, but a little more muscle would have gone a long way.

I found McGrath at his weakest when he downplayed the more difficult “presentation” of God in the Old Testament, in favor of the revelation of God through Jesus. While we may indeed find a portrait of non-violence in Christ, and a model for Christian behavior, you just can’t get away from the “Terrible” portrait of God in the conquest of Canaan. It seems that that portrait would lead us either to affirm an “evolving” god (who is now offended by our earlier ideas about him), or a God who is a consuming fire – Indeed a God before whom we should sometimes quake.

I would have wanted to hear more about what is “offensive” in God (ie – His holiness), and why we – as sinners, should be offended. (followed, of course, by a declaration of the patience, kindness, and grace of God.

I think McGrath was at his best, when he argued that Atheists may also be led by “wish fulfillment.”

For those who like this stuff, here are a few more links of interest. (The Christian in these debates differ quite a bit in background. Lennox is another English Christian (a theistic evolutionist) who addresses with greater strength the idea of design in the universe. Bill Craig, accepts Big Bang cosmology and makes a strong argument from the nature of things with beginnings, and the resurrection of Christ, and finally Greg Bahnsen (now dead), a Reformed theologian with a little more verve. (It might also have been interesting to hear Bill Craig and Greg Bahnsen debate, as they work from very different theological perspectives)

(A ten-part series between Dawkins and Lennox)

(A series of debates between Christian William Lane Craig and a series of persons.)

(the Great Debate, Greg Bahnsen, Gordon Stein: Both now dead)



Doc Op said...

oops, sorry to mispell your name. My middle name is Stephen with the ph, so I figure other folks are.

Mark Songer said...

I didn't view this debate. I've had enough of Dawkins through debating with atheists myself. I've seen and read him defending his arguments against God with a fervor that I wish many Christians had when speaking of Christ.

You speak of his lack of true knowledge and spiritual understanding sickening you and it is hard to listen to sometimes. But remember that the world sits in darkness and curses the light because it does not understand it. The world looks at the things of the spirit and considers them folly. Without God opening Dawkins' eyes in the same way He did Saul of Tarsus', Poor Richard will never likely understand.

And Chris, if you study the origins of Islam and Mohammed's life, you may see why many modern theologians consider the Muslim faith to be a cult that is a direct off-shoot from Christianity. So he may not have been far off in what he said. I'm not saying it's a denomination like Baptist or Presbyterian, but it's origins and structures are an interesting comparison. In so many areas from doctrine to heirarchy down to theological rifts, the progression of Islam is strikingly similar. As if someone (or some entity) were trying to build a counterfeit Christianity, maybe?