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1154Saturday's Belfast blog - answering atheists

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Jul 19, 2014
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      Belfast blog - Jon Kennedy
      The Jonal, Jon Kennedy's blog on the Nanty Glo, Pa. Home Page.
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      JONAL ENTRY 1549 | SATURDAY, JULY 19 2014

      Today's Scripture: I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. They are Israelites, and to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.
      — St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 9:1-5,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below. «

      Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

      I took the picture above before the start of the parade on Monday in Scarva, County Down, Northern Ireland, thinking it would interest the readers in my home town of Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania, the name of which is Welsh for "streams of coal." Nanty Glo is a big town (as that is reckoned in that part of the world) that lived by and literally on top of its coal mines for several generations but, so far as I know, never had a coal store (and the mines are all gone now, too). Though I couldn't find a definitive explanation online, the best guess hinted about the store there is that this was a coal merchant's place of business when coal was one of the best fuels to burn in home-heating and cooking stoves and fireplaces. Ireland has almost no indigenous coal, so what was sold here was probably shipped over from England or Wales, both of which had a large coal industry until the 1980's. A prettier picture of the same sight is available here.
      Today's weather in Belfast: summer mist. «
      In the news
      Links to articles on current issues—news and opinion that may signify how the cultural winds are blowing. Note that most 'news reports' are not 'objective' and if some are 'neutral' it's because the writers and editors are disinterested (could care less about the topic). Neither are 'news reports,' in general, highly accurate or unbiased; try to discern the bias of any report's source; always read aware and at your own risk.
      What's at stake in the (same-) sex revolution now being lost by Christians
      Rod Dreher: Obama will give orders denying exemptions to Christians
      Video: A simple explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian problem
      A non-partisan look at why children risk everything to come to America
      Major conference set on the Gospel, homosexuality, and the future of marriage
      A priest's recommendations for parents on keeping our children Christian
      Videos feature major Eastern Orthodox artists of past and present
      Oregon ice cream parlor Introduces flavor to honor Planned Parenthood
      Christianity Today writer considers how true art can be consistent with values
      Christian worldview
      (This department alternates with Writing stuff)
      Yesterday, I left three topics, raised earlier this week by champions of atheism in a forum on Google+, to come back to here today:
      1. C.S. Lewis was discredited as a defender of theism during his lifetime, so recommending his writing to prove anything is stupid.
      Lewis never faltered in any of the debates he had with skeptics and atheists in the Socratic Club meetings at Oxford during his many years in faculty leadership of that club, and he certainly was never regarded as the "loser" of any of those debates, nor did he think that himself. Ironically, however, one guest at one of the Club's meetings, Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscomb, herself a serious orthodox Catholic Christian, challenged an approach to "proofs" for God given in Lewis's book, Miracles, suggesting that it might be improved, and which led Lewis to revise that section of the book for its next edition. Some of his biographers have probably over-estimated the alleged damage this had on Lewis.
      Of course "proof" for the existence of God refers to logically sound arguments based on created evidences, not empirical "proof." By definition, neither God nor any of His attributes can be examined in a laboratory, and no logical debater would claim otherwise.

      2. Belief in God is insane because there is no empirical evidence such a being exists; thus, faith is illogical.
      No empirical proof, yes, but no empirical evidence, no. The world itself is ample evidence of a creator greater than itself. Since no one has ever seen any "accidental" collision of elements, molecules, chemicals, or any other building blocks of the material world come together in such a way as to result in an improvement in themselves or their proximate environment (such evolution has never been witnessed), the only other explanation ever devised is that the material world came about through the creative agency of some intelligent force able to arrange the building blocks into improved or evolved states. Intelligence has never evolved from ignorance and Plato and the other ancient philosophers concluded that such an eventuality is so unlikely (illogical) as to be impossible. Pay your nickle and take your choice: creation or chaos.
      3. Citing the two-billion-odd believers in Christ as evidence for the truth of Christian claims is a fallacious argument because, "if all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you do likewise?"
      I would not jump unless I observed that most—probably, in my case, it would have to be all—of them developed an ability to fly or hover without crashing onto the ground on their way down. I have observed something like that, in a carnival "ride" that uses upward air pressure to enable bodies to "float" without crash-landing. But seriously, every jury trial determines the fate of the defendent in the dock on lesser proof than this skeptic demands: It's almost always a combination of circumstantial evidence (one minute the victim was alive, the next he was dead) and testimony ("and I saw who brought that about and how it was done"). But usually there's no video of the event, and even if there were, it could have been tampered or based on a recreation rather than the case under discovery.
      The two billion Christians (give or take a few hundred million) have experienced something of the truth of the claims for God, so much so that they're willing to stake their reputations, and many even their lives, on their conviction that what they believe is based on a Truth that's greater than all their previous doubts and skepticism. Such "proof" is evidence, certainly, but no one would call it laboratory-verifiable proof of anything.
      Thousands—millions—of eye witnesses have claimed to have personally seen acts of God and in other means experienced God's presence in their lives, or assistance from the unseen spirits (angels) in their lives. Again, you can believe it and find meaning and purpose in life, or you can wrap yourself in your doubts and see how warm and happy they make you. «
      Today's video
      Who knew turtles like to play?
      How about Girl Scout cookies?
      Today's quotes
      On being a Christian in a society that marginalises Christians:
      . . . the profession of Christianity might become, if not exactly dangerous, at least disadvantageous; and it is sometimes harder to endure disadvantage than to face danger, harder to live meanly than to die as a martyr. Already, we say, we are a minority. We cannot impose our standards upon that majority when it explicitly rejects them; too often, mingling with that majority, we fail to observe them ourselves. Like every minority, we compound with necessity, learning to speak the language of the dominant culture because those whose language it is will not speak ours; and in speaking their language, we are always in danger of thinking their thoughts and behaving according to their code. In this perpetual compromise, we are seldom in a position to pass judgment on other Christians, in their peculiar individual temptations: it is hard enough, reviewing our own behavior, to be sure when we have done the right or the wrong thing. But we can and should be severe in our judgment of ourselves.
      — T.S. Eliot, quoted by Rod Dreher
      in the article linked above «
      The process of healing shall be proportioned to the measure of evil in each of us, and when the evil is purged and blotted out, there shall come in each place to each immortality and life and honor.
      — St. Macrina (elder sister of the more famous saints Basil
      and Gregory of Nyssa. July 19 is St. Macrina's Day.) «
      Where, except in the present, can the eternal be met?
      — C.S. Lewis «
      Homiletical thought: How it grieved the Apostle and how it must grieve the Father that His chosen nation would—by and large—not accept His Son. Like us, they have always been a people whose hearts are hardened against their own best interests. To those to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). How much have you been given? How much accounting will be your due? «
      §     §     §
      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence