Morally Schizophrenic: Moral Outrage in a Land With No Moral Compass

**Can you be good without God? Are morals objective truths or personal opinions? Are skeptics morally schizophrenic?**

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Can you do good without God? Certainly. Can you define good without God? No.

Let me explain…

I’ve written about what is often called the moral argument before on GFTM blog (see here, here, and here), but it’s such an important argument that arises so often I decided it would benefit us to look at it one more time. (Note: I’d usually break a long post like this into several posts, but I think it’s best to keep the whole argument together in one place.)

Basically, it goes like this: a skeptic (atheist, agnostic, relativist, post-modernist, naturalist, etc.) criticizes Christianity for something, which – more likely than not – is a moral claim. For example:

  • The God of the Bible is cruel and violent.
  • Christians are intolerant.
  • Believing in a Creator God stifles science and human flourishing.
  • The apostle Paul was sexist and homophobic.
  • Christianity makes people closed-minded.
  • Christianity led to witch hunts and burnings.
  • Believing Christianity is the only true religion is arrogant.

The list can go on (I’m sure you thought of a few yourself), but what I want you to see is this: all of these are moral statements of one form or another. The one making the statement is making a moral claim, which means proclaiming something to be morally “good” or “bad.”

Some of the statements above may not seem like moral statements,  but often the one saying it is implying one. For example, at its core “Believing in a Creator God stifles science and human flourishing” is saying, “Human flourishing and the study of science are morally good, so Christianity is morally bad.” Likewise, the statement “Christianity led to witch hunts and burnings” may be a statement of fact, but again, often someone is also implying that witch hunts and burnings are bad.

At the base of these statement, there are questions that must be addressed: Why are witch hunts and burnings morally bad? Why is human flourishing morally good? The answers to these questions may seem so obvious we take them for granted, but are they really self-evident truths?

Even these following statements about moral statements are making moral claims:

  • No one has the right to make absolute, objective moral claims.
  • You don’t have the right to morally judge anyone.

Those who say such things are actually making moral claims!

And they’re also making self-refuting statements.

And that’s the point: When people make moral claims, and yet their worldview doesn’t provide any foundation for their moral claims, they have defeated themselves. Thus, often they become morally schizophrenic.

 

BY WHAT STANDARD?

Pick any of the moral criticisms from the above list (or elsewhere). For example, perhaps someone accuses the Bible of promoting slavery. Now, I don’t believe this is true (and I will address this in a future GFTM series), but I can respond in two ways:

(1) I could walk through the Bible with him or her and give the historical and theological information needed for understanding the difficult passages of the Bible that deal with slavery.

(2) I could ask a single question: “By what standard?”

In other words: “You’re making a moral claim that slavery is wrong. According to what standard are you saying that? Before we even discuss the Bible, explain to me, according to your understanding of the world (your worldview), why slavery is wrong?”

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Yes, but the question is: Why?

GOOD WITHOUT GOD?

Now, the question of why slavery is wrong seems so basic to us today that it seems like a silly question. But think about it: Can you explain why slavery is wrong? Or are your moral stances simply something you assume? Again, to be clear, we all know slavery is wrong, but why? Follow your train of thought – follow the path of your logic backwards – to the foundation of your beliefs. What is your moral stance standing upon?

To better understand this, ask yourself:

  • What do I believe about humankind?
  • Where did we come from?
  • Are we going anywhere?
  • What makes our purpose important beyond personal preference? (In other words, what makes our purpose real?)

Now, can you explain why slavery is wrong?

Is it wrong because owning a person is wrong? Well, why is that wrong? Do humans have inherent rights? Do you hold “that all men are created equal… with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Do you believe this simply because our forefathers believed this or for another reason? Do you believe it because you were taught this in school, on TV, or by your peers? Is this really “self-evident” to your worldview? Where do “rights” even come from?

I’ve heard this slogan many times from skeptics: Good without God. In other words, one does not need to believe in God to be morally good. I agree 100%.

But the question is NOT whether skeptics CAN do good. They certainly can (by social standards anyway)! The question is WHY do they do good – and how do they even know what good is? What compels a skeptic to do good?

So, here it is:

  • If there is no God, there is no objective morality. (By “objective” I mean a standard of morality that exists outside of yourself.)
  • If there is no objective morality, all moral claims are only personal preferences and opinions.
  • If all moral claims are only personal preferences and opinions of an individual, then all moral claims can be dismissed by other individuals on the grounds that this is only their opinion.

Only a source that exists outside ourselves can account for a universal, objective moral code. (In fact, only an intelligent, immaterial source can account for an immaterial moral code.) And without an objective moral law, all moral claims can be responded to as follows: So? Why should I care?

If morality is strictly personal preferences and opinions, then why does anyone else have to care about the moral claims you make? If there is no God, all moral claims we make are smoke in the breeze. With no absolute foundation, they float away into nothingness. In fact, they are nothingness. And, then, morals are free to change like fads. What is immoral one day (like eating a baby for fun) can become morally fashionable the next. Without God, a moral claim is a nonsensical statement. Without an unchanging standard outside ourselves, your moral claims have no roots.

Before we continue, let me be clear about what I am NOT saying. In fact, every time I explain this, someone misunderstands me or jumps to a hasty conclusion without hearing me out (or maybe I’m just really bad at explaining it) and accuses me of saying that skeptics have no morals. So, let me say this in all caps. In fact, I’ll even underline it and put it in bold so it doesn’t get overlooked:

I AM CONFIRMING, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THAT SKEPTICS HAVE MORALS! BUT WHAT I AM SAYING IS THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE A FOUNDATION FOR MORALS. THUS, THEY CANNOT MAKE ANY MORAL CLAIM… (WITH ANY CONVICTION ANYWAY).

You might not like what I said above, but I hope at least you understand me accurately.

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K. Chesterton wrote, “[T]he new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. … And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, [the skeptic] is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

Skeptics have to borrow their morals from doctrines and dogmas based on human rights which are in turn contingent upon human value. The skeptic does this without reason. He prefers to think of himself and certain other persons as valuable, but human beings have no intrinsic moral worth if the skeptics’ worldview is taken to its logical end. Therefore, the claims of the rapist are equal to the claims of the judge and the claims of the nicest atheist are equal to the claims of the most tyrannical dictator.

 

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Morality is found in the eternal, unchanging nature of God. We don’t deem something “good” simply because God said so, nor because the Bible says so. In other words, adultery can’t be bad one day and good the next because God changes his mind. Goodness is grounded in God’s unchanging nature; goodness is defined by God’s very character. Good is not good because God says it is so (though he does); good is good because God is good. God is the eternal, unchanging standard of good.

Everyone, including hardcore skeptics, have morals because they have an innate sense of morality, and everyone, including hardcore atheists, have an innate sense of morality because they’re made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). A mindless, directionless force cannot give us the innate sense of morality we all have.

Romans 2:14–15 tells us,

“For when Gentiles [nonbelievers] who do not have the Law [of God] do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

Yet, though we’re made in God’s image, we suppress his innate moral law because we love our sin.

Romans 1:20-25 tells us,

“For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and … they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”

As Tolstoy said, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

 

MORALLY SCHIZOPHRENIC

The skeptic cannot stay consistent with his moral claims, because he’s morally schizophrenic. He’s made in the image of God and has God’s moral law inside him, but he also loves his sin and wants to be his own god, so he also attempts to suppress God’s moral law. On one hand, he says morals are personal opinions, but on the other hand he declares vehemently his moral outrage and he wants us all to listen and agree. On one hand, he overlooks the murder of human life in the womb, but then expresses outrage at the murder of an infant. He declares mutual consent is the only sexual moral rule, yet he’s disgusted by incest by consenting adults. He believes we’re only biological machines evolved to pass on our genes, yet he is morally appalled by rape.

Sometimes skeptics accuse Christians of only being “good” because they fear God’s wrath. First, those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ know we’re saved not by our own actions, but by the work of Christ. Thus, we don’t fear eternal condemnation, and we don’t (and can’t) earn salvation. Since we are saved by faith in Christ and God’s grace alone, there’s nothing more we can earn with our “good” actions (Ephesians 2:3-9; Romans 6:23, 11:6). Since our salvation is not based on our own works, but the work of Christ, we are secure in our salvation.

Secondly, those who understand the God of the Bible have a proper fear of him, but this isn’t the primary reason we obey his moral law. We obey God because he loved us when we were in rebellion against him and dead in our sins. God became a man and was tortured and killed to free us from sin so we can spend eternity with him. Love of Christ compels a Christian much, much more than fear. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

If there is a God, there are universal, objective morals. If not, all morals are subjective – based on personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. There is no such thing as how things “ought” to be. Without God, it just is what it is.

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EVOLVING MORALS

If naturalistic, materialistic, atheistic evolution is all there is then we have to face this fact: A mindless, directionless force does not and cannot create meaning or morals, nor can it explain our innate sense of morality.

If naturalistic, materialistic, atheistic evolution is all there is, there is no larger meaning than survival. If atheistic evolution is all there is, eat, drink, and be merry because this is as good as it gets. If atheistic evolution is all there is, then life is directionless, random, and pointless. If atheistic evolution is all there is, then – at best – life’s goal is to pass on our genes. And why should we even care about passing on our genes? We’re only here a short time – maybe about 90 years if we’re lucky. What’s it matter if my genes live on after me or not?

In other words, when you give your spouse a Valentine’s Day card, be sure to explain that you only care for him or her because you need him or her to pass on your genes, and the “love” you feel is just an illusion of the chemicals firing off in your brain (and loins). When you tuck in your kids at night, tell them something similar.

An atheistic evolutionist can make all the moral claims he wants, but when you get down to it all he’s giving are the personal preferences that are programmed into the meat computer we call his brain.

“Sexism is wrong,” he shouts.

Who cares. We’re random, happy accidents with only 90 years to live. I got better things to worry about.

“Since we’re here for only a short time, we should allow everyone to make the most of it.”

Why? I’m only looking out for one person: me.

“That guy is a scumbag. He has four kids to different women, and he doesn’t pay any child support.”

Good for him. He’s passing on his genes and enjoying life. That guy has it figured out.

 

FINDING MEANING IN MEANINGLESSNESS

In the past, when I’ve pointed this out to skeptics, I’ve had a few say something like, “I make my own meaning.” But this itself is a meaningless statement. How can you make meaning in a world devoid of meaning? A person’s self-made meaning only extends as far as that person’s self-delusion; don’t expect anyone else to buy into your personal “meaning.” (And if life really is meaningless, then the only way to be happy is to ignore the truth. So is truth the enemy of happiness?)

Everyone’s favorite atheist, Richard Dawkins has said, “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”

But that same man also wrote, “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference … DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”

Mr. Dawkins, sir, you speak so beautifully you can lull a water buffalo to sleep, but you’re a moral schizophrenic. You worldview cannot stand.

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Or, take a moment to watch this 2-minute “Big Think” Youtube video by atheist physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss where he says human life is “more insignificant than we can possibly imagine,” “an accident in a remote corner of the universe,” and he even reminds us of the imminent death of all life in the universe. But then he goes on to explain how this makes humans “more precious” and we should find meaning in life, including in art and music. To be honest, I laughed aloud when I first watched this video.

With Krauss’s atheistic worldview, he can fairly say: Life is meaningless, so enjoy the time you have. No problem there; no inconsistency. But he can’t say: Life is meaningless, so live meaningfully. Do you see the schizophrenia? (Plus, he’s confusing pleasure with meaning. Something can be pleasurable and completely meaningless.)

Krauss — a naturalistic atheist who publicly mocks belief in God — even goes on to use the term “spiritually uplifting”! The image-of-God that is intrinsic in Krauss’s very identity cannot be suppressed. We are designed for worship — and if not God, we’ll worship something else. We see Krauss’s schizophrenic worldview in full-on parade in this 2-minute video.

No meaning = No human value = No morals.

No human value = No meaning = No morals.

No morals = No meaning = No human value.

 

NICE STORY, BRO

Skeptics have attempted to explain morals in a number of naturalistic ways without an absolute, immaterial, unchanging Law-giver. But without an objective moral code with a foundation in unchanging truth, all moral claims crumble under personal preference.

Social Construct – Morals are defined by society.

So, when Nazi Germany proclaimed that it was good to kill Jews, was this morally good because “society” decided this? If the South had won the American Civil War, would slavery be morally good? Was Martin Luther King Jr. immoral for standing up against a racist society? In fact, who decides what part of society defines morals? Does might make right? Does majority rule? Has the majority ever been morally wrong? (Yes!)

Ultimately, saying morals are a social construct still confirms the view that morals are subjective. And if morals are subjective, why do we have to follow them? Peer pressure?

Human Flourishing – Morals Promote Human Advancement

I’ve heard skeptics respond that doing something immoral like, say, eating a baby would doom the human race. But Jonathan Swift’s infamous (satirical) essay A Modest Proposal lays out a compelling argument about how eating babies would actually benefit society. So, who should I believe? Further, if I eat just one baby and no more, will it doom the human race? Absolutely not. Would it be morally wrong still?

Aristotle argued that it was the slave’s nature to be a slave, and thus, it was to the benefit of both society and the slave for the slave to remain a slave. And in ancient Rome, the poor often benefited greatly by selling themselves into slavery. Does this then mean owning a person like property can be morally good?

Also, notice the underlining assumption of this view: human flourishing is good. Why is human flourishing the ultimate good? If we’re just meat machines here by happy accident, what’s it matter if we flourish or not? (But more about that below.)

Good Feelings – Being good is a reward within itself; it makes me feel good.

What if raping others makes someone feel good? Does that make rape for that person morally good? I’m pretty sure most serial killers found pleasure in their work. In other words, what if being “bad” makes me feel “good.” What if what makes someone feel good is stomping on another’s face when she’s grinning after doing something “good”? And again, who defines what is “good”?

Beware of any action justified solely on subjective, personal feelings. And while we’re being morally subjective, let me just ask, Who cares how you feel?

Doing good makes you feel good because you were created in the image of God to honor him.

Evolution – Morals have evolved to help the human species survive.

First, nice story. I’d like to see that proven. Secondly, evolution is based on survival of the fittest. It has no room for niceness. Are you telling me evolution suddenly became a peace-loving hippy?

Christians aren’t going to argue against the idea that working together is better, but without the unchanging moral law of God – again – why should I care? I’m only on this planet for a short time; if ruining other’s lives makes mine better, I’m going to do it. Who can tell me I’m wrong?

You may say some behavior is “best” for everyone – “best” for human flourishing. But how can you be sure? As stated above, Jonathan Swift made a compelling argument on how eating babies, something universally seen as reprehensible, could actually help society. And again, who cares? Who says human flourishing is the ultimate moral good? What if I prefer self-flourishing? Or what if I’m a radical environmentalist and I believe the health of the planet is the greatest good, so humans need to “flourish” less? Or what if passing on my genes most effectively is by destroying a rival society? Survival of the fittest, baby

Philosopher William Lane Craig concludes in his book On Guard, “…if our moral beliefs have been shaped by evolution, then we can’t have any confidence in them because evolution aims, not at truth, but at survival. Our moral beliefs will be selected for their survival value, not for their truth.”

For the Kids – I’m morally good to make the world a better place for my children.

Now, maybe this can make some sense to an atheistic evolutionist because in that worldview passing on your genes may be the only “meaningful” thing someone can do, and making the world a “better” (“better” = “safer”) place will increase the chances of those kids surviving to pass on your genes. But, once again, who cares? If morals are subjective, I can choose not to care for my offspring, and who is anyone to judge me? Making the world a better place is a lot of work and so is raising kids. What if I think it’ll be much easier to pass on my genes if I just impregnate as many women as possible? That seems like a good way to live for many men. Are they wrong? Not according to all worldviews.

 

STABBING BABIES

I once had a hostile skeptic come after me on Twitter. His moral outrage at Christianity was clear, but when I asked him to explain upon what standard he was basing these moral claims, he huffed and hollered but never gave me an answer.

We continued for a while, and for every moral condemnation he made against Christianity, I again asked him why I should listen to anything he had to say if he couldn’t even tell me how he judges anything morally. At closest to explaining, he said it was “complicated.” So, I said I would make it easy for him: “Tell me why it’s wrong to stab a baby.” Yes, this was a bit harsh, but he wasn’t pulling any punches with me either. Again, he hooted and hollered, but he never answered my question despite my persistence.

And that’s the problem. Skeptics can shout all they want about injustice or human rights or bigotry, but they’re not standing on anything. They’re floating up in the air, their legs flailing around, toes pointed, trying to find some ground to stand on, but they have nothing.

Occasionally, you hear of a person who claims to have been a Christian who “lost their faith” because of the evil in the world. Ironically, one of the surest signs that there is a God is the universal outrage we see at evil. If there’s no God, there’s no evil. If there’s no God, it just is what it is.

(Thanks to Jordan Karausky for his feedback, insight, and additions to this article.)

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Related GFTM articles on the moral argument:

Random, Meaningless Morals

Atheists have Morals! (And So Do the Rest of Us)

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

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***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks of The Walking Dead primarily in general, but events in Season 5, Episode 2 are discussed.***

In the last GFTM article where we looked at The Walking Dead from a Christian worldview, we explored how the Bible teaches that God restrains evil through governments (though those governments, being human, are imperfect). Once government collapses, evil is left to reign unrestrained.

Another way God restrains evil is through humankind’s innate morality.

So, the question is, is this innate moral law enough to suppress evil in a world of anarchy and chaos?

Are Humans Worse Than Zombies?

As discussed before, a major theme in The Walking Dead and nearly every post-apocalyptic TV show, movie, or book is the “good” man or woman struggling to hold on to his or her goodness in a world full of evil. Even in stories with people struggling to survive in post-apocalyptic environments – whether it be because of zombies or just lack of food – the main threat inevitably becomes other humans.

As The Walking Dead continues into Season 5, this is undeniable. In fact, the advertisements for the new season even read,

“Fight the dead. Fear the living.”

 

Further, in Season 5, Episode 2 (titled “Strangers”), we find this brief exchange:

Gabriel: “People are just as dangerous as the dead.”

Rick: “No, people are worse.”

 

Clearly, once law and order are gone, the darkness that is in people’s hearts is free to overflow like water behind a destroyed dam. Yet though we witness the internal struggles of Rick, Carl, Michonne, Tyree, Carol, and others to not be dragged completely down into the sludge – some characters teetering on the edge, maybe even going over it, but then pulling back again – they still manage to hold on to their humanity.

In fact, this often has a redeeming effect on them. Simply look at Michonne’s change from a woman who was quite crazy (to put it bluntly) and animal-like when they met her – wandering about with a samurai sword and leading two armless, jawless zombie slaves with her – to a person who actually smiles now – who actually makes an effort to bring others back from the brink, as seen in her relationship with Carl late in Season 4.

Despite the rest of the world succumbing to darkness, Rick Grimes’ crew often grasps on to what is right, even when it’s nearly impossible to do. This is, after all, why they are the heroes. Heck, it can even be quite easily argued that Daryl has become a better man because of this whole zombie nonsense.

But why? Why hold on to moral law in a world of lawlessness? Why do the right thing when everyone else openly pursues evil?

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The biblical, Christian worldview can answer this question:

Romans 1:18-20
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 2:14-15
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”

We are all created by God and made in his image (Genesis 1:27) and we live in his creation, meaning whether we claim we believe in God or not, we know him and we live in his reality.

What the above verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us is that everyone knows there is a God, and everyone has God’s law written on their hearts. They may deny God’s existence; they may suppress God’s truth because they love their sin; they may even be able to numb their conscience; but they all know God and know his Higher Law. Thus, they are without excuse.

Philosophers a long time ago realized if we have an innate sense of a Higher Law, then there must be a Higher Law-Giver. Again, the Bible confirms this. In fact, the Moral Law is not something God created apart from himself, but it proceeds from God’s very nature. God is perfectly good, just, and holy. Thus, God’s own nature is the source of good.

Morals Without God

Even when I was a self-professed atheist I recognized that one couldn’t make sense of morals without God. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that atheists don’t have morals. They certainly do. Indeed, what I’m saying is that atheists can’t make sense of their morals – they can’t justify them – if there is no God.

The fact that self-professed atheists still hold to morals in what they believe to be a mindless, meaningless universe that is only here by random chance shows that, in fact, they’re made in the image of God. The fact that atheists make stout, absolute moral claims, despite many believing morals are subjective (or only a convenience to assist survival), displays that they know there is a Universal Law, though their denial of Christ has perverted their sense of it.

Recently, a self-professed atheist tweeted me in response to something I had tweeted about this very subject. Essentially, he claimed the Bible promotes rape and murder. Now, anyone who has a decent understanding of the Bible knows this is not true, but to prove the point of my earlier tweet, instead of giving him a Bible lesson, I simply asked him to explain why, according to an atheistic worldview, rape and murder is wrong.

Here is some of the interaction. I polished up some of the “tweet-speak” to make it more readable:

 

Ben: “In what universe are rape and murder moral? The Bible says to do both.”

Me: “So, are you saying rape & murder are immoral? According to what standard?”

Ben: “According to the standards of anyone.”

Me: “Why is this a standard to everyone? Where does this value come from?… [Furthermore, you said,] ‘standards of anyone.’ Anyone?? [There’s] sure lots of rape & murder out there… Does majority define truth? If everyone said you were a duck, are you a duck?”

Ben: “Murder isn’t illegal because its ‘immoral,’ it’s illegal because no one wants to get murdered. Same with rape and stealing.”

Me: “So other people don’t want to be murdered. Why should I care? Survival of the fittest, baby. See my point?”

Ben: “No, because in today’s society there are consequences for your actions, and you’d most likely be killed as well, by police.”

Me: “So we shouldn’t do rape or murder because we’ll get arrested or killed but they’re not wrong to do. That’s what you’re saying.”

Ben: “Right and wrong are just subjective. Everybody believes whatever the **** they want to believe. So if you want to go rape and murder people, that’s not my problem, so I don’t give a ****.”

Me: “Right. Just wanted to be clear. So you have no grounds for making any moral judgment. Rape, murder, racism, “homophobia,” sexism, killing babies, killing in the name of religion, slavery, genocide – are all OK according to your worldview, right?”

Ben: “No, according to the Bible those are all OK. The Bible actually tells you to do those things.”

Me: “[Even] if it does [which it doesn’t], according to your worldview that’s no problem. So, there’s nothing to argue about. Everything is subjective, so who cares?”

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Christianity on Secular TV

Interestingly, Episode 2 of Season 5 introduced a Christian character, an Episcopalian priest named Gabriel. I’m always curious to see how secular TV portrays Christians, since Hollywood often portrays them as either crazy or evil.

It’s also interesting to watch Hollywood’s assuredly poor understanding of Christianity and the Bible. Once, I remember looking over at my wife during an episode of Lost after Mr. Eko made some “Christian” statements and asking her, “What Bible is he reading?”

What pop culture does with the Bible is essentially what cults do too: They pick and choose Bible verses, take them out of context, and use them how they want to use them, making them say whatever they want them to say. So, it’s always interesting (and entertaining and infuriating) to see how Hollywood uses Scripture, whether it be in horror movies about demonic forces or political dramas like an infamous scene from The West Wing where the president uses the ol’ Why do Christians follow some of the Bible but not everything in the Old Testament? argument, showing an utter void of understanding of biblical theology (just like real-life politicians, including our presidents).

(If you’d like to know how to respond to both make-believe presidents & real presidents concerning the Christian understanding and use of the Old Testament, read my articles Making Sense of Old Testament Laws, Part 1 and Part 2.)

As one can expect, as Rick Grimes’ crew checks out Gabriel’s church in “Strangers,” we see “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54) in the sanctuary, which when not understood in context of the Lord’s Supper certainly sounds creepy, and certainly loosely fits with what both the zombies and the human cannibals pursuing our heroes do.

Another blogger did us a service by looking up verses seen on a verse board in the episode. All the verses have to do with the resurrection of the dead. Of course, the resurrection the Bible writers tell about is nothing like a zombie “resurrection” of the undead – but, hey, to be perfectly honest, if I was living through a zombie holocaust, I’m quite sure I’d be combing the Scriptures trying to make sense of what was going on as well.

But what this other blogger overlooked is one more verse used in the episode. The verse was in a framed picture quickly seen as our heroes searched the rooms of the church. Its message is quite fitting for The Walking Dead and is one we would all do well to remember:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
(Galatians 6:9)

 

NEXT: WHY AREN’T THINGS WORSE? & WE’RE ALL WALKING DEAD

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

Read the 1st article: “The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil” here.

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The Final Bible Secret Re-revealed! Are There Any Bible Secrets?

*Did God hide secrets in the Bible itself? Did the 1st Christians hide the truth? Is Christianity one big conspiracy? Was Jesus a Buddhist?*

 

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So, are there secrets in the Bible? And did the church cover up secrets about the Bible?

To conclude the God From the Machine series Bible Secrets Re-revealed (which has been looking at claims made on the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed) let’s explore these questions.

In this series, we’ve refuted these claims:

Further, many of the other articles posted on God From the Machine in the past year have refuted claims made elsewhere, including the claim that Christianity came from paganism.

What has become overwhelmingly clear is:

(1) Many of these claims that attack Christianity and deny the traditional understanding of Christianity are based on unadulterated speculation.

and

(2) The “very public” nature of biblical Christianity makes secrets within the faith highly unlikely.

 

Unadulterated Speculation

We live in the time of nonstop television programming where literally hundreds of channels are competing for your attention. As a result, even channels that appear to be educational are drenched in sensationalism.

As we have seen with the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed, serious history has been substituted with conspiracy theories, sloppy half-information, and grand conclusions based on shoddy evidence – if any evidence at all.

We also live in the age of the internet, where every nutty conspiracy theory is kept alive by continuous circulation by those who don’t know any better or those who accept as truth anything they come across that reinforces their chosen worldview.

The great thing about hackneyed conspiracy theories is that they survive because of lack of evidence, not because of convincing evidence — which is backwards from how much of the rest of the world functions.

It’s like finding two red puzzle pieces (that may not even belong to the same puzzle) at the bottom of a drawer and jumping to the conclusion that the completed puzzle must be a Lamborghini.

“How do you know it’s a Lamborghini?” someone might ask you. “Did you find the box with the other pieces?”

“No,” you answer, “but I know there are puzzles of Lamborghinis out there.”

“But how do you know those pieces are a Lamborghini? Where’s the box with the other pieces?”

“Someone purposely hid the box, so I can’t prove it.”

“Can you prove someone purposely hid the box?”

“No, they covered that up too!”

Do you see the problem with this sort of thinking?  

Hey, maybe you’re even right. Maybe it is a Lamborghini. But don’t expect anyone to take you seriously until you find that box.

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As we have seen in this series, little evidence (if any) support the more outrageous claims of the unbelieving scholars on the History Channel, and what evidence there is doesn’t justify the claims they’re making. Much more obvious (and less scandalous – and thus, less TV-worthy) explanations account for the evidence.

Sadly, this mindset permeates everywhere.

For example, I once had a history teacher tell me Christianity comes from paganism. I asked, Where are the primary documents of the supposed myths that are similar to Christianity? What I was asking for was hard evidence. What evidence did she offer? A Youtube video! (And a lame one at that!) I honestly wanted to say to her, “Shame on you! You’re a history teacher! You should know better!”

(To read my article on how claims that Christianity is from paganism are unfounded, click here.)

 

So, Was Jesus Influenced by Buddhism?

Uhh… What?

Here is another example of this unbridled speculation. The fact that this was even suggested on Bible Secrets Revealed illustrates just how much of what is offered on these shows are based not on serious academic investigation, but careless conjecture and even dishonest assumptions.

If this is a serious theory, the one making the claim has a mountain-sized burden of proof, because no serious scholar actually believes this because all evidence says otherwise:

Christianity’s founder was a Jew in the Jewish land of Judea. All evidence shows Christianity spread from Jerusalem, initially by Jesus’ Jewish disciples. The first Christians were Jews.

Are you noticing a pattern here? In order to understand Christianity, one must understand the Jewish faith. This is why Christians must read and understand the Old Testament, not just the New Testament.

In fact, this is exactly what Jesus and the writers of the New Testament did. They constantly refer back to the Old Testament to put what is happening in the New Testament into context. To chase after unsubstantiated claims that Christianity originated from Roman paganism, Buddhism, or any other worldview other than the ancient Jewish worldview will lead to a dead-end.

But what about Jesus’ “lost years” between his birth and ministry, as was brought up on the History Channel? All evidence points towards him being a carpenter in Judea. Is it possible he traveled to the East and learned about Hinduism or Buddhism? Sure, it’s possible, but is it plausible based on the evidence? If we’re going to accept this theory, why not say Jesus traveled to northern Europe and became a Viking for a few years?

Everyone can speculate. But what does the evidence say?

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Conspiracy Theory Theories

One more thing to consider before moving on:

Homicide detective and former atheist, J. Warner Wallace in his book Cold Case Christianity explains what is needed for a successful conspiracy:

  • (1) A small number of conspirators. (Less people involved, less people to screw things up.)
  • (2) Thorough and immediate communication between the conspirators. (There’s a reason police separate suspects. Without this, they can’t keep their stories straight.)
  • (3) A short time span to keep the secret. (The more time that passes, the more likely the secret will come out.)
  • (4) Significant relational connections. (A strong bond between those involved, leading to an unwillingness to sell each other out.)
  • (5) Little or no pressure. (If no one cares about the conspiracy, no one is going to look into it or expose it.)

Wallace points out that even conspiracies with most or all of these 5 characteristics rarely remain hidden—and the first Christians had none of these things!

(We won’t be exploring this further here, but I recommend picking up Wallace’s excellent book.)

Cold-Case

Simply & clearly lays out the historical argument for the reliability of Christianity from an interesting perspective.

A Public Faith

From the beginning, Christianity has been a very public religion. Jesus preached in public and he performed miracles in public. Furthermore, the most important miracles of Christianity —Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection—were public.

Notice, this is very different than other religions that make miraculous claims. Often, only the founder witnessed a miracle or experienced an encounter with God or an angel.

Because of the public nature of Christianity, it should be the easiest faith to disprove, yet it has continued to grow for two thousand years.

Even today, two thousand years later, the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is hard to refute, and when all the evidence is taken together the only plausible explanation is that God did something miraculous.

So we have to ask: If God decided to reveal himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, why would he keep other things concerning salvation secret?

I cannot think of a single reason.

If God went through the “trouble” to reveal himself to us, would he not reveal everything he wants us to know?

As I said, Christianity has always been a public religion, and it still is. There are no secrets to salvation that those outside of the church don’t know about. Outsiders and unbelievers are invited to join Christians in their worship services at all times; anyone can go into a book store and learn what Christians believe by picking up a Bible; no “secret knowledge” is given to those who “join,” and there are no secret rituals.

Those that claim to be Christian churches but do these secret things are cults on the fringe of the faith, and I wouldn’t consider them Christian in any biblical sense.

The History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed (and the like) are determined to make it appear that the exclusion of certain ancient writings from the Bible were an attempt to suppress some truth or to hide some secrets. But the truth is much less complicated, much less exciting, and much more starkly obvious: the church was protecting God’s Word from corruption.

(To read more on God From the Machine about the uniqueness of the Christian Scripture and Christianity’s “public-ness” click here.)

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But Did God Himself Hide Secrets in the Bible?

So, how should Christians think about divine secrets?

Scripture informs us quite clearly:

 

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

 

As finite, limited humans, there are things we simply cannot know — unless God has revealed them to us. And there are things God has not revealed. Why? I doubt we’ll ever know within this age or lifetime (but I’m betting primarily for our own good).

Here, we must trust the sufficiency of Scripture. God has revealed to us, through Scripture and Jesus Christ, all we need to know (and all he wants us to know).

Jesus Christ himself, as our perfect model, displays this humility concerning the acceptance of the revealed things and unrevealed things. In Matthew 24, we get these puzzling words from Jesus concerning the End Times:

 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36)

 

But don’t Christians believe Jesus is God the Son? Doesn’t God the Son share the same nature as God the Father? How can Jesus not know the future?

The answer lies in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When God the Son took on flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, he voluntarily limited himself, depending on God the Father (because, again, Jesus is our perfect model):

 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

 

Thus, in his incarnate state as Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son accepted that any supernatural knowledge was dependent on whether God the Father gave it to him. This is a concept many Christians overlook or misunderstand, but the point that concerns us here is this: Christians need to humbly accept that there are things God simply has not revealed to us.

(In addition, the next time some misguided pastor or radio host announces that he has studied the Bible and figured out the date of the Day of Judgment, be sure to point out that not even Jesus knew.)

Does that mean we shouldn’t pour over the Scriptures, studying them intensely to understand all that God has revealed? Of course not! But it also means we shouldn’t be inventing “secrets” that simply are not there.

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Bible Secrets Re-revealed! Could Jesus and His Disciples Even Read & Write?

**How did Jesus’ disciples write the New Testament if they were illiterate fishermen?  How could a poor carpenter be as knowledgeable about Scripture as Jesus? **

SERIES INTRO: Have the right narrator and ominous music and anything can sound scandalous.  Recently, I watched several episodes of the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed TV show.  It was amusing but troubling at the same time since these sort of sensationalist shows aren’t about history or education, but preying on people’s lack of knowledge.  The sort of one-sided, half-information thrown around on these TV shows is sure to resurface.  So, here are some quick responses to some questions that might arise from such quality TV programing.

Other articles in this series: Did Constantine compose the New Testament? & Did God have a wife?

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Could Jesus & his Disciples Read & Write?

So, the idea goes, Jesus’ disciples were a bunch of uneducated, working-class dudes, so there’s no way they could’ve written the New Testament.  In fact, Jesus was just a poor carpenter, so he probably couldn’t read or write either.  This isn’t much of an argument against the validity of the New Testament, but — if nothing else — it’s an interesting thing to consider: Is it possible that Jesus and his disciples knew how to read and write?

The style and skill level of the original ancient Greek of the different books of the New Testament show us that, though as Christians we believe the Scriptures are divinely inspired, God didn’t dictate word-for-word to the writers.  Likewise, the New Testament writers didn’t go into some sort of trance where God moved their hands as they wrote.  The unique writing styles of the New Testament books and letters show us that the writers’ own style and education level influenced the writing as the Holy Spirit guided them.

WERE ONLY THE RICH EDUCATED?

Often people today assume only the rich in ancient times could afford the privilege of education, so only the rich (and often urban) population had the privilege of learning to read and write.  Yet, in fact, evidence points in the opposite direction.  For example, a second-century clay tablet was discovered with a memo written on it in Latin by an assistant of a bricklayer.  This shows that even poor, working class people could read and write.  We also know that public notices were posted in rural villages throughout the Roman Empire, and a “vast amount of personal letters, legal deeds, divorce certificates, writings on coins, and ossuary inscriptions” show that writing was not just reserved for the elite few, but the common people. Like today, there were varying degrees of literacy in the ancient world.

LEVELS OF LITERACY

Today, there are more than just two opposite extremes of literacy.  Between literate (able to read and write) and illiterate (unable to read and write), there is a wide range of literary levels.  Today, those who graduate college are considered highly literate, but this is a small percentage of the world.  Many of the literate world wouldn’t be labeled “highly literate,” though they’re far from illiterate.  Many people can read and write basic sentences, but wouldn’t be able to read and summarize a college-level article.  Likewise, in the ancient world, many people were “semiliterate.”

WHAT DOES HISTORY (OUTSIDE THE BIBLE) TELL US?

Furthermore, it’s very likely that the Jews were much more literate than the Romans since the Jewish faith is centered around a collection of writings: what Christians call the Old Testament.  To be able to read and explain the Jewish Scriptures was a “revered goal” to Jews.  Thus, the importance of reading in the Jewish world was “unparalleled” in the Roman and pagan world.  Evidence shows that synagogues often functioned as schools for Jewish boys, and it’s not unreasonable to believe that Nazareth had a synagogue where the young Jesus could learn to read and write.

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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TELL US?

Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus is literate.  Jesus illustrates that he has closely studied the Jewish Scripture in his many debates with the scribes and Pharisees.  For instance, in Matthew 22:32, Jesus refers to Exodus 3:6 to argue for the future resurrection of the dead, and his argument is based on a very close reading of Scripture.  Jesus quotes God in Exodus 3:6 as saying, “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”  Jesus then says God is “not the God of the dead but of the living.”  Jesus’ whole argument here is based on the use of one word: “am.”  Since God said “I am,” not “I was,” (present tense vs. past tense), Jesus concludes God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though they’re long dead.

Further, Jesus was also viewed as a teacher, which would imply literacy in his culture; he amazed crowds with his “learning,” the Greek word used in the original texts usually included reading skills (John 7:15); and we clearly see Jesus reading from the Book of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-30).

Skeptics may say these details were simply invented by the Gospel writers, but if so, this only further proves that the idea of a literate Jew from a working class family from a small, backwater town of Judea could be literate.  If this idea had been absurd to the Jews of Jesus’ day, why would the Gospel writers make up such a thing that others would find utterly implausible?

AND SO…

If we can safely conclude that it’s certainly plausible that Jesus – the son of a carpenter, and a carpenter himself before his ministry – was literate, then it’s not a stretch to believe his disciples were literate too.  Even if we doubt the high literacy of Peter and John, both fishermen before following Jesus and described as “uneducated and ordinary” (Acts 4:13), Matthew was a tax collector, Paul was a Pharisee, and Luke (not one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, but a Gospel writer) was an ancient physician — all positions which would require a certain level of education.

Also, who is to say Peter and John didn’t sharpen their literary skills after deciding to follow Jesus?  After all, John didn’t write his Gospel and letters until about 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  That’s a good amount of time!  Interestingly, one of my professors, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, in his book Misquoting Truth writes, “…the simplest Greek in the New Testament is found in the Gospel According to John and the Gospel According to Mark, the two Gospels whose traditional authors might have been less than literate.  In fact — even after translating hundreds of Greek epigraphs, papyri and writings from prominent second- and third-century Christians — I still haven’t found a document written as simply as the Gospel According to John.”

Finally, we also know from historical records that it was common in the ancient world for people to dictate their thoughts to a professional scribe or secretary who would do the writing for them.  The evidence even shows that the scribes or secretaries would often record the speakers’ thoughts in their own style, even using their own words to rephrase ideas, and the speaker would then approve the writing and sign off on it.  There is even evidence that the Apostle Paul used a secretary in this way when writing some of his letters (that are now in the New Testament; See Romans 16:22), even though Paul, being a Pharisee, would’ve been highly educated and literate and he was able to write Greek (Gal. 6:11; Phil. 1:19-21).  There is also evidence that Peter used a profession scribe or secretary in 1 Peter 5:12, which reads, “Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!”

Sources:

Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd. The Jesus Legend. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.

Timothy Paul Jones.  Misquoting Truth.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.

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How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?

What do the biblical writers warn about false teachers?  What is a “Christian” cult?  Are these cults new or old news?

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Warning: False Teachers & Prophets

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ warns of false teachers and prophets who will corrupt his Gospel, his good news of salvation.

For example, in Matthew 7:15, Jesus warns:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” 

Not only Jesus, but the apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, gives considerable space to warning against false teachers and prophets.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul writes:

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Furthermore, Peter, Jesus’ most prominent disciple of his original twelve, took time to warn against false teachers too.

In his letter 2 Peter 2:1-3, he warns:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master [Jesus] who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”

John, writer of the fourth Gospel, Revelation, and three letters in the New Testament, another one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples and arguably as prominent as Peter, also warns about those who corrupt the message of Jesus’ good news:

 “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

And while we’re at it, take a moment to read the letter by Jude, Jesus’ brother… Do it right now.  It’s barely one page.

So, here we have throughout the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and Jude all warning against false teachers and prophets.  If Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and Jude didn’t take corruption of God’s word lightly, neither should we.

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Ever see one of these? Luckily, this is a dwindling cult. Ironically, it’s neither Christian nor scientific in any way. It’s closer to types of Hinduism & Gnosticism.

What Do We Mean By “Christian” Cults? 

“Cult” isn’t necessarily a negative word, such as when used in ancient Rome or in types of Hinduism.  It can simply mean a system of religious devotion towards a specific person, god, or object.

But in modern Western society “cult” is a word no one wants to be associated with.  Today, in the West, often “cult” means a small group of people on the fringe of society who hold to some strange religious beliefs.  But sometimes these small groups of people with odd beliefs grow into large groups of people with odd beliefs.

So, let’s be clear about the intended meaning of the use of the word “cult” in this (and future) articles.

“Cult” – more specifically “Christian cult” – will refer to religious groups that have Christian origins or have borrowed from Christian beliefs but have deviated from Christianity to such an extreme that they can no longer be considered Christian.

These religious groups either deny or have changed core doctrines of Christianity so they’re not just another denomination.  Yes, there are many denominations in Christianity, but the differences between them have to do with different interpretations of minor doctrines and/or differences in their governing leadership.  Conversely, cults deny major doctrines – essential doctrines – of the Christian faith.

 

Why are they “Essential” Doctrines?

By “essential,” we mean essential for salvation from sin.  By straying from these core doctrines, the cult members don’t have salvation from sin as taught by the New Testament Scripture.  They have altered, corrupted, or denied the true Gospel of Jesus Christ by altering, corrupting, or denying God’s free gift of salvation.  Thus, peoples’ eternal souls are at stake.

Have no doubt, in using the word “cult” we’re stating that these groups are teaching – to use a term that’s no longer fashionable – heresy.  Though we believe the people in these cults are sincerely seeking relationships with God, they have been led astray by the founders and leaders of these cults, who are – to use more unfashionable language –apostates, i.e. false teachers and prophets.

But the good news is no one is beyond God’s grace – not even messed up sinners like me, you, or cult members.  That’s the good news of Jesus Christ.

Grudem

Recommended. Know your Christian doctrine — what we believe and why.

But Don’t Call Them “Cults”!

I realize what I’m writing in this section is ironic:

Though the word “cult” is used in this article (and will be used in future articles), I don’t believe we should use the word “cults” when speaking with members of “Christian” cults (such as blatantly telling someone, Your church is a cult).  As stated above, the word has such a negative connotation, the person will take offense and, after that, any chance of an open, loving dialogue will be lost.  Remember, Christians are to speak not just truth but truth with love (Eph. 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 13:1).

 

How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults?  + , – , X , /

One of my professors at SBTS, Dr. David Sills, professor of missions and anthropology, gave us a fool-proof way to understand, explain, and remember what makes a group not a denomination, but a “Christian” cult:  Use the symbols: +, — , x, /

That is:  + (Addition sign), – (Subtraction sign), x (Multiplication sign), / (Division sign)

This is what each symbol represents:

(+) Adds to the Word of God

(–) Subtracts from the Deity of Jesus Christ

(x) Multiplies the Requirements for Salvation

(/) Divides the Cult Members’ Loyalty Between the Cult Leader(s) and Christ

These are pretty straight-forward, but let’s break them down:

(+) Adds to the Word of God

Christians believe the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament, are God’s unique Scripture.  There are no other scriptures than these, and there is no need for any more scripture than these.  Scripture records God’s redemption of humankind from sin, and this was accomplished when God came as Jesus of Nazareth and died on a cross as the perfect, final sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Now, according to the commands of Jesus, Christians spread his Gospel and wait for his Second Coming, when he will bring the Final Judgment and restore creation.  (Take a moment and read my blog post: 2-Minute Lesson on Biblical Theology — the Progressive Revelation of God in Human History.)

Case closed.

Throughout the Bible we see that God confirms his messengers through “signs and wonders” — miracles.  The New Testament was completed in the 1st Century by Jesus’ apostles.  Any addition to God’s Word is not God’s Word, and any new “scripture” claiming to be from God is not from God.  God will not be giving any new scripture because there is no need for it.  The church “closed” the canon of Scripture for exactly this reason: so no one could claim to have written, received, or discovered new Scripture.  Likewise, to eliminate or change anything from God’s Word is corrupting God’s Word.  Additionally, any “translation” that is not faithful to the original Greek and Hebrew falls under this category.

 (–) Subtracts from the Deity of Jesus Christ 

Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth, as taught in the New Testament, is God the Son incarnate.  Primarily through Jesus’ deeds he displayed his divinity and oneness with God the Father.  In every way, Jesus is God.  He has been eternally part of the Trinitarian Godhead; he isn’t a created being.  Only by being both fully God and fully man could Jesus live a perfect, sinless life and accomplish salvation for all of humankind by his death on the cross.

To deny Jesus is anything other than God means Jesus could not accomplish salvation for all of humankind, which means salvation from sins is not possible.  Thus, to deny the divinity of Christ Jesus is to be unsaved.

Often “Christian” cults make Jesus (God the Son) less than God the Father.  Jesus is seen as a sort of demigod or an exalted angel — a being created by God.

As a related matter: Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity – the persons of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as one God – is hard to wrap our finite, human minds around, but the Bible attests to it.  Many “Christian” cults deny the Trinity by either denying the full deity of the Son/Jesus or the Holy Spirit or both.

(x) Multiplies the Requirements for Salvation

The New Testament writers teach that salvation from sins comes only through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  When someone understands this, they repent of sins, accept this free gift, and follow Jesus Christ – God the Son – as their Lord and Savior.

Thus, no one earns salvation.  It’s a free gift from God that can only be either accepted or rejected, as with all free gifts.  Despite what many think, one doesn’t come into God’s presence by being a “good person.”  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  God’s salvation can’t be earned, and none of us deserve it.  It can only be accepted.

This is the beautiful good news of Christ Jesus – the truly unique message of Christianity that no other faith teaches.  To add anything to this simple and beautiful message of salvation is to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But cults add some sort of “works” to salvation; salvation must be gained, even if the cult holds up some version of Jesus as a savior.  The cult members must be deemed worthy of salvation through their works and close adherence to the cult’s teachings – and often its solely up to the cult’s leader(s) to deem who’s worthy of salvation or not.

(/) Divides the Cult Members’ Loyalty Between the Cult Leader(s) and Christ

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all true Christians.  God has graciously given us the Bible – the Old and New Testament – as our guide for knowing God’s will.  The Bible is also our guide for testing the teachings of the teachers of God’s Word.  If any teacher – whether pastor, priest, or pope – purposely misrepresents God’s Word, he is putting himself in the place of God; he is putting his authority above God’s.

In cults, the founder(s) and leader(s) are the final authority, not God or Jesus nor their Holy Scripture.  They claim to be the only ones who can properly interpret God’s Word, or they claim the authority to add to or alter God’s Word.  To do this, is to stand between a person seeking God and God.

Like John the Baptist, true teachers of God’s Word point their hearers to Jesus Christ.  They don’t get in the way.  They encourage their pupils to read God’s Word on their own and strive for understanding.  False teachers point not to Christ, but to themselves.  And often unquestioning loyalty is demanded.

Idol_Pig_LOTF

2 More Common Characteristics of Cults

These, also, should “raise an eyebrow” if you come across them:

The One True Church

Yes, different denominations have disagreements on minor doctrines, but they don’t usually accuse the others of being heretics and devoid of Christ’s salvation.  Cults often claim they’re God’s only true church and members of all other Christian churches are destined for damnation.

Often they claim Christianity has been corrupted some time in the past, but they have the true, restored Christianity as Jesus Christ intended it.

Secret Teachings

Jesus Christ preached in public, performed miracles in public, and both Christian doctrine and Christian churches are open to all.  There are no secrets.  Cults, on the other hand, often have secret teachings or rituals that only those indoctrinated into the cult know or are allowed to participate in – or even to witness.  Often, these are some of their stranger beliefs that they don’t want the general public to know about.

Frequently, those new to the cult purposely aren’t exposed to these stranger beliefs until they have invested themselves into the cult.

Old Heresies, New Faces

Many of the teachings of these cults are old heresies, meaning they’re nothing new.  If you look at Christian history, the early church has already faced and addressed many of the same unsound, erroneous interpretations of the Bible these modern cults promote.

“Christian” cults put peoples’ salvation through Jesus Christ into serious jeopardy.  A cult may have all or any one of the characteristics mentioned above.

NEXT:

  • General strategies for interacting with cult members.
  • Responding to the teachings of specific “Christian” cults.

Recommended Resources:

BOOKS:

  • The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin (Ed. Ravi Zacharias)
  • The Four Major Cults by Anthony A. Hoekema

ONLINE:

  • www.challies.com – Excellent informative series of articles on “False Teachers” — both present and past.  A new one is posted every few weeks.  Scroll down on the page to see those written so far.
  • 3-part series on how to biblically identify, engage, & deal with false teachers by Denny Burk.
  • kingdomofthecults

    Recommended. Classic study of various cults with updates.

    FourMajorCults

    Another recommended modern classic. Out-of-print, but I found a cheap used copy online.

 

 

 

 

Why I, a Christian, Am in Favor of the OK Capitol Satanic Monument

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Recently, new attention has been brought to the separation-of-church-and-state debate when, in response to a Ten Commandments monument placed at the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City in 2012, the Satanic Temple in NYC began an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to put up their own monument.  Then, a few weeks ago, they garnered more attention when they released the design for their Satanic monument: Baphomet, a goat-headed creature with wings, sitting in front of a pentagram with two children at its sides — an album cover-worthy image of any one of my favorite metal bands from the 1980’s.

Basically, the Satanic Temple’s argument goes like this: Either take down the Ten Commandments or we have the right to put up the Satanic monument.

The organization American Atheists had a similar strategy when a group of private citizens raised money and placed a Ten Commandments monument outside a courthouse in Florida.  When the Ten Commandments monument wasn’t removed, American Atheists raised money and placed their own monument at the courthouse in the summer of 2013.

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Granted, maintaining a separation of church and state in a country that guarantees freedom of speech and religion, a democratic country (therefore, ruled by the people – people primarily with religious convictions), is tricky business – actually, I would say impossible – but I humbly forgo the bulk of the debate about the correct implications and interpretations of those crucial characteristics of our country here.  I’m not the right guy for that debate.

(Though I would like to throw out one question before moving on: Why do people in NYC have any say about public land in OK?)

Yet concerning the case of the proposed (threatened–?) Satanic monument at the OK Capitol Building, I would like to weigh in.  So, I say thus:

Put it up.

Here are my reasons why I think a Satanic monument in OK is… well, OK:

(1) It’s only fair.

If we live in a democratic country with freedom of religion and speech and if a group of private citizens decide to put up a monument to honor Satan, then they have the right.  To quote someone much more famous than me: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  If they want to erect said monument on public, instead of private, land and other faiths have been allowed to erect monuments to their faith on this public land, again, it’s only fair.  So, let them put it up.

(2) Religious monuments – especially Satanic ones – will promote discussions about religion, faith, and God.

Where I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that any publicity is good publicity, any controversy gives Christians an opportunity to speak about their faith.  I doubt the Ten Commandments monument in OK would’ve made national news or caught the interest of social media, yet the Satanic Temple in NYC has given Christians a platform to discuss their faith.  Thanks.  Put it up.

(3) If Satan exists, so does God.

By erecting a monument to Satan, the Satanic Temple of NYC is affirming God, the Bible, and a realm of our existence that transcends the physical world.  And what better reminder of the presence of a holy, good, and just God than a symbolic idol of evil set up for all to see?  Put it up.

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(4) Satanist should be allowed to have monuments on public land, but atheists should not.

Now, this isn’t because I have anything personal against atheists, but I say this according to their own logic.  Many atheists have made it perfectly clear that atheism is not a religion.  I agree.  Furthermore, outspoken atheists have made it very clear that those of us who believe in God are the ones with beliefs, not them, and the burden of proving the existence of God is on us.  If fact, many atheists even resent being labeled “atheists” because it implies there is a God to disbelieve.  A quote in Psychology Today sums up their argument nicely: “I refuse to identify according to what I reject.  I don’t believe in astrology or unicorns, but I don’t label myself according to that – so why should I identify according to my rejection of god-belief?”  Fair enough.  Thus, atheists don’t exist.

So, please immediately remove the American Atheists monument at the courthouse in Florida.

One may argue that groups without religious affiliations also have the right to put up monuments, but that doesn’t concern us here since the belief-formally-known-as-atheism doesn’t exist.  How can we have a monument to something that doesn’t exist or to something that’s not a belief?  A monument to nothing?  Absurdity.  So, take it down.

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(5) Their true goal is more about stifling faith than promoting freedom of speech.

The true goal of many of these aggressive secular groups is to banish all things of faith from sight, as seen in the case of the 13-foot cross set up by a group of marines (not some government institution) at Camp Pendleton in California to commemorate their fellow soldiers who had been killed or injured in combat.  The atheist group MAAF demanded the cross be taken down even though I know of no reports that other faiths had been forbidden from erecting similar monuments.

The true strategy of some of these groups is not to put up a monument to counter every religious monument in the country (because, let’s be honest, they would fail miserably), but to encourage other groups to erect monuments and so clutter up public land that local governments will ban all such monuments.  In an article on the American Atheists monument in Florida, the New York Times reports, “But building monuments to atheism from sea to shining sea is not really their goal. They figure that once atheists join the fray, every other group under the sun will demand the same privilege — including some that Christians might find objectionable, like pagans and Satanists.  In the end, the atheists hope, local governments and school boards will decide that it is simpler to say no to everyone.”  Furthermore, many of these “Satanist” groups are not Satan-worshippers; they’re simply angry atheists.  Go to their websites and read their beliefs to see.

So, put it up.  Let the great monument contest begin!  Let’s make America so cluttered with monuments that it’ll rival ancient Rome.  Heck, once we banish monuments to the belief-formerly-known-as-atheism, militant unbelievers will react by pretending they worship spaghetti monsters and such to mock those with faith in God, but let them put their idols up anyway.  Their monuments won’t serve as a mockery of belief in God, but a mockery of our Constitution and the freedom of faith and speech it protects.

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(6) There’s no neutral stance.

Whether you like it or not, or you think you care about it or not, there is no neutral stance when it comes to the God debate.  Militant atheists and so-called Satanists want the world to believe that Christians and others who believe in God are the ones forcing their beliefs on others.  But no culture in the entire history of the world has ever been atheistic.  Interestingly, all these diverse faiths have a belief in a creator, an afterlife, a sense of their own sins being offensive to their creator, and a need for reconciliation.  That means if the naturalistic atheist is right, and humans evolved solely by a long series of random, happy accidents and spread throughout the world into thousands of diverse cultures, we’re to believe they all developed some sort of understanding of God by sheer coincidence.  It seems to me if the militant atheists were right, belief in God would be the exception, not the norm, yet atheism is the exception — vastly.

If outspoken atheists want to convince us that unbelief in God is the true state of humans, then they’re going to have to explain away the search to understand God by every culture since the dawn of man.  No matter what the situation, humans always return to pursuing God.  Even in Communist countries where religion was outlawed, people have continued to search for God despite the high risk of harsh persecution.  Ironically, even ardent atheists can’t help but return to the patterns of religion as seen by the movements to start atheist churches, by the presence of atheist chaplains at colleges and in the military, and, yes, even the making of symbols of their beliefs in the form of monuments.

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The greatest irony is certain atheists want us to believe we’re all the product of random, mindless chance — we’re stardust that became creatures; we’re an advanced accident of cells — but they want us to believe life still has meaning.  Meaning can’t come from random, mindless forces.  If the atheistic materialist is right, freewill, love, and even your mind don’t exist; they’re just illusions; they’re all just chemicals firing off in your brain.  You’re not thinking; you’re just responding to stimuli.  So, if this upsets you, don’t be mad at me because I can’t help writing this.  I’m just a flesh computer and this is how I’m programmed.

Militant Atheists desperately want their rights, but why does a cosmic accident deserve any rights?  If I shove a person into traffic instead of listening to him, it’s just one accident running into another.  The chemicals in my brain made me do it; it’s nothing personal.  And can you prove your rights please? — Because I have never seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt a right before and if I can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or see it, I don’t believe in it — because no strictly material process can birth immaterial things – like rights.

There’s no neutral stance.  So, put up the Satanic monument.  Let’s remind everyone that there’s a spiritual war going on.  Let the Satanists slap nominal, cultural Christianity in the face and say, “Decide what you believe and pick a side, but you can’t be lukewarm anymore.”  Let’s throw a bucket of cold water on those Christians who stay safe in their Christian bubbles and remind them of the adversity that’s out there – yes, there’s opposition; yes, there’s hostility; and yes, there’s even evil.  Put it up.

I want to be perfectly clear that I am NOT labeling atheists as evil.

Many of my friends don’t follow God but are fantastic, beautiful, loving, thoughtful people.  But I have this to say: Just like the nominal, cultural Christians, you have to make a choice.  And I want you to see that the way you live right now in your unbelief is in a way that shows there’s a God.  You live as people who believe there’s meaning to life, that people have rights and value, that there’s beauty in the world, and that friends are worth dying for.  Your thoughts aren’t the thoughts of something that somehow became living from lifeless, mindless matter and developed by chance into an advanced accident that ponders its own existence.  You are more than flesh machines.

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There is no neutral stance in scripture.  Jesus clearly stated whoever is not with him is against him (Matt 12:30; Luke 9:50, 11:23).  He wasn’t the all-affirming hippy modern Americans try to make him out to be.  Jesus speaks of hell more than any other person in the Bible; he understood the cost of sin so much that he was tortured and died because of it.

There is no “grey-area” in scripture.  We all fall short of godliness.  We are all sinners, and sin separates us from a perfectly good, just God.  But God became man, lived the perfect life we never could, and took the punishment when he didn’t need to — for us — so we could be united with him.  This is a free gift, but all gifts must be accepted.  That’s all you need to do; you don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to be “good” in order to accept it because none of us, Christians included, are wholly good.

There is no neutral stance.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).  We are either slaves to sin or we are set free through Christ.

Some people who are opposed to God have honest intellectual questions that need answering.  I understand that.  I was an atheist longer than I have been a Christian.  Christians need to be ready to gently and humbly answer them, and if they can’t, they should be honest about it and find someone who can.

Some people are opposed to belief in God because of emotional reasons.  The church has hurt many.  Christians need to humbly acknowledge this and give apologies.  But those hurt must also realize that Christians are imperfect sinners too.  Just as we find the sick in hospitals, we find sinners in churches.  Christians need to do a better job of representing God, but also remember they aren’t God.  Don’t reject God because of Christians.

Finally, some reject God for reasons of their will — because admitting there is a God is admitting that there is more to life than what they want to believe.  Admitting there is a God brings with it a certain responsibility, a certain way of understanding the world, and a humbling and admitting you’re not the center of the universe.

A person may reject God for any of these reasons or for all of them.  When I was an atheist, my rejection of God was a combination of all three.

So, put up the Satanist monument.  Let’s start the discussion.  Let the “Satanists” shove Satan in our collective faces because, to quote something said in a movie by someone a lot more famous than me: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

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