Daily Archives: September 27, 2009

Atheist Bus Campaigns

A little PR never hurt anybody…at least that’s what some atheist groups are thinking.  But, it could come back to haunt them (more on that later).

Back in the summer, a kerfuffle arose in several places around the country.  Atheist groups advanced an advertisement campaign, in some cases going so far as to sue for the ability to put their advertisements on buses and park benches.

Though it’s been a while since the controversy erupted, it is still instructive for Christians:

Can I take exception with everyone in the video?  Can I do that?  I’m not a big fan of *any* of the answers Taylor or Binder gave, and I’m definitely scratching my head at some of the questions Doocy asked.

Where to start.  How about with Taylor?  Let’s start with a little in-house critique.  I think I know what Taylor was getting at, but rather than making a cogent point about the atheist belief system, he instead came off as reactionary and defensive.  For example, why in the world would he be offended at the atheists attempting to engage in a little PR in the public square?  That is the exact same freedom he no doubt would clamor for his own church goers, so I’m bewildered as to why he took umbrage with Binder’s group doing the same thing.  So what if it turns out to be an attack on Christianity?  That’s the nature of the public square: somebody throws down a gauntlet, another picks it up, and both sides duke it out to see which idea can take the heat.  He could have taken time to refute the idea, but instead he made a psychological point about the motivation behind the idea (an “attack from the left”), and it’s not even clear that it was a good one.

He almost approached making a good point when he talked about the atheist group using the inalienable rights spoken of in our founding documents to “make a mockery about God,” but it was jumbled and confusing.  I take it that he was making a point about atheists “borrowing capital” from a theistic worldview.  In other words, anything like a “right” to “freedom of speech” is based upon the intrinsic dignity of human beings.  Sacks of meat that behave in complicated ways aren’t bearers of rights.  Where do we get that intrinsic value from?  Not from the particles, natural selection, or random mutation.  Not from the cosmos that atheists insists is all there is, was, or ever will be.  Not from convention or a social contract or the herd morality.  We get it from God.  For atheists to use that right to argue against God is for them to bite the hand that feeds.

That is a perfectly good point, but I’m giving the most charitable interpretation of Taylor I can, and his red herring about an “attack from the left” distracts from the point considerably.

On to Doocy, the Fox News man.  His first question was to Binder: “you don’t believe in God, yet you sued to put God in your ad.  Why?”  What a silly question.  He wasted an opportunity.  Rather than asking a good question, like, “if God really doesn’t exist like you believe, what is ‘good’?” or some variant, he coyly suggests that it’s strange for the atheists to talk about or make advertisements about a being they don’t believe in.

It’s not strange at all, especially given the goals that Binder mentioned.  If their goal is to suggest that you don’t need belief in God to be good, fine.  Nothing incoherent about that.  It’s ultimate soundness is another question I’ll touch upon later, but there is nothing strange about mentioning, in an ad, a being the atheists don’t believe in.

By harping so much upon how “offended” some Christians are by the campaign, Doocy and Taylor unwittingly play into the faux tolerance trick, thus hamstringing Christianity.  Key to the gospel is sin, an offensive concept if there ever was one.  If human beings aren’t guilty of sin, then the gospel becomes a mere private taste, and church a social club.   If saying someone is wrong (the atheist bus campaign suggests Christians are wrong in some of their key beliefs) makes the atheists intolerant, where does that leave Christians?

Bible friends, rather than focusing on being offended, when instances like this arise, view them as opportunities.  The atheist groups responsible for such advertisements might think they are making good PR for their cause, but they are actually giving Christians a wide open door to engage both them and others on truth.

First, read up a little on the Christian worldview.  Listen to a few podcasts on apologetics.  Take a class or two at a reputable conservative seminary in theology.  Then, when you see the advertisement out in public, enter into discussions with those around you.   Is it really true that “you can be good without God?” ***  What does good even mean in the absence of God to ground the good?

The resulting conversations will result in fruit for the Christian worldview, but not so much for the atheistic worldview.

Christians have no reason to fear these open doors for the same reason we have no reason to fear attending a debate on such topics as God’s existence or the resurrection of Christ.  The Christian worldview, when presented against others, stands tall.

You see, if Christians take that attitude rather than an attitude of offense, this bus campaign could turn out to backfire on atheists.

***you need an ID and password to access the article.  Use these: ID–pugnacious  PW–Irishman

God Only Wise

I’m reading J.I Packer’s Knowing God for the first time….really!  Can you believe it?

I found the following quote thought-provoking:

God’s almighty wisdom is always active, and never fails.  All his works of creation and providence and grace display it, and until we can see it in them we just are not seeing them straight.  But we cannot recognize God’s wisdom unless we know the end for which he is working.  Here many go wrong.  Misunderstanding what the Bible means when it says that God is love (see 1 John 4:8-10), they think that God intends a trouble-free life for all, irrespective of their moral and spiritual state, and hence they conclude that anything painful and upsetting (illness, accident, injury, loss of job, the suffering of a loved one) indicates either that God’s wisdom, or power, or both, have broken down, or that God, after all, does not exist.

But this idea of God’s intention is a complete mistake: God’s wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable.  Not even to Christians has he promised a trouble-free life; rather the reverse.  He has other ends in view for life in this world than simply to make it easy for everyone.