But if you had lived in Saudi-Arabia…

I once talked to one of my friend’s parents about Christianity. She asked me a question I’ve heard several times other places, and it used to freak me out (not so much anymore).

Is it not true that if you had lived in Saudi-Arabia, you would’ve most likely have been a Muslim? And is it not true that if you had lived in India, you would probably have been either Muslim or Hindu? How can you be so sure that your religion is true and that you don’t just believe this stuff because you grew up in a Christian culture?

Now, I still haven’t figured out what are the exact assumptions underlying this question, nor where it’s heading. Was it originally meant to be an attempt at defending relativism? Is it an attempt to accuse Christians of being simply ethnocentric? Is it even fair to argue from such completely hypothetical situations in which everything would be different? Assuming I grew up in another country, would it even be me? Does that not entail different parents, different genes, different abilities, different interests, different worries? The question, simple as it might have seemed at first, is quite vague and unspecified.

However, this is the kind of question I was confronted with, and the person asking me wanted to hear an answer, I assumed, rather than a deconstruction of her question, even if this would’ve been justified. I tried answering by making a few reasonable suggestions as to how I would still have been able to know that Christianity is true, even if I had grown up in a country where other beliefs were dominating.

First, I suggested that if God had revealed himself to humans, it would be in a way that most people would’ve heard about. This makes sense, kind of. Surely, if God wanted all of Creation to know him by name, he would not limit himself to a tiny cult in the mountains that most people would never hear about. So I guess that if there is a God, it must be one of the most famous ones. It is therefore reasonable to assume that one of the three monotheistic religions are right, simply because these are the dominating world religions.

Now you have three religious views, and they can’t all be true. It really comes down to which view is more reasonable. Fortunately, these three religions actually seem to agree on some things. For instance, they agree that God is “one” (whatever that means). In this way, we can get a long way to establish what’s true about the world. What I find particularly significant is the fact that they all claim to be based on the faith of a man named Abraham. (Unfortunately, the woman I was talking to didn’t know him.) So the fact of the matter is that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in Abraham.

What must then be considered is, who seems to have the more accurate account about this man Abraham? On the Muslim side, we have the Qur’an all of which was written in the 7th century. On the Judaic-Christian side, we have the Old Testament (or the Torah), more specifically the Book of Genesis. According to Wikipedia, “Scholars believe that it reached its final form in the 5th century BC, with a previous history of composition reaching back possibly to the 10th century.” In any case, it’s much closer to the actual events of Abraham than the Qur’an is. That simply leaves Islam out of the picture as a credible contributer concerning the faith of Abraham.

At this point we only have Judaism and Christianity left. I guess we could find lots of reasons to pick Christianity rather than Judaism. One is the fact that God has obviously left his “chosen” people. History shows that they are no longer in a covenant relationship with the Creator.  Honest research would prove that Judaism is not what Judaism ought to be in this respect. Another way of arguing would be by establishing the historical evidence concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or perhaps, one could argue from the Torah that they prophecied about the coming of Jesus, and the majority of the Jews simply rejected it.

Obviously, this is just one of many ways to get around the “If you lived in Saudi-Arabia” argument. I used to wonder if I was really this lucky just to grow up in the right church, or if I was just playing tricks on myself, and perhaps the Calvinists were right. Today, I’m confident that my church is full of mistakes just like other churches, but I’m also confident that Christianity is generally true, and Jesus is the Truth.

Growing up in Christianity does not prove it wrong or right, it doesn’t even make it more or less plausible, but God has obviously revealed his true character in a way that would make most people find him, that is, if they actually went looking for him with an honest and open mind. There’s a rational way of figuring it out, and this is not limited by culture since all humans have some basic rational abilities. It’s available to them.

I’ll sum up the argument for you.

1. The real God is probably one of the most famous ones. (A lot of people will agree with that after a short moment of reflection. It’s a good assumption.) That means that God—if he’s really real–is either the God of Judaism, Islam or Christianity.

2. This means that what these three religions agree on, that’s probably true. They all agree that Abraham knew God as he really is. Therefore, if we want to know who God really is, we should find out what Abraham really believed. Islam’s opinion on this particular matter, however, is questionable compared to Judaism and Christianity.

3. That means that Yahweh, in any case, is the true God. All we need to figure out now is if Judaism or Christianity is more plausible. Again, we find the common ground as we did before: The Old Testament. And an honest investigation of this piece of literature will show that Christianity the more reasonable option (sorry, Jews).

Consensus in the world of science

Richard Dawkins considers the concept of God a scientific question rather than a philosophical matter. Dawkins also seems to think that the theory of Evolution disproves this “god hypothesis”. I don’t accept these premises, but I’m going to play along. 95% of all scientists believe in evolution. (A lot of them believe in God as well, but let’s ignore that right now.) Therefore, people may claim that it’s obvious that God has been largely disproved, based on Dawkins’ reasoning. “Scientific consensus opposes the God hypothesis.”

On that note, I found a quote by Michael Chricton very interesting. Like Atheists like Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, Michael Chricton is mostly known for his sci-fi novels. Unfortunately, he died not so long ago. But this quote remains:

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

If Richard Dawkins truly believed in science, he wouldn’t be so hostile towards alternative ways of thinking. He would be positively intrigued.

Was Jesus a Myth?

Video: Was Jesus a Myth?
Participants: Dan Barker (atheist) vs. James White (Christian)
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3520

On the technical side, it’s not a good recording. You can’t see the faces, and sometimes the microphones are not working. But of course, you can see the gestures, and Dan Barker has a lot of those. He’s good at preaching, gotta give him that.

The topic of this debate is somewhat narrow compared to most other debates. However, Dan Barker tends to go in different, somewhat irrelevant directions during the long cross-examinations. He gets caught up in details concerning the first humans, Creation and the age of the earth. He also ignores procedure and even boasts that he’s proud to break the rules at one point. While these things shouldn’t convince us one way or the other concerning the credibility of the gospels, this kind of behaviour certainly does not benefit Barker.

So, was Jesus a myth? Dan Barker’s first speech is quite persuasive, but James White makes a nice rebuttal by giving examples of how atheists have twisted myths (and semantics) in order to make them look like the gospels and invent parallels that are not really there. I especially found the discussion concerning “common virgin births” quite interesting.

To me, it’s a very important question to ask “why would the first Christians tell these stories if they didn’t believe them?” People die in the name of false religions and for the sake of myths, indeed. This is a well-known fact. But the early Christians are different in that they rely on a purely historical event: The resurrection of Christ. If the story of Christianity is a human invention, the early Christians would know so in a way that “Jihad terrorists” could not possibly know their beliefs to be false. It really comes down to the physical nature of the Christian beliefs. Their claims could be tested at the time because it did not come down to individual visions or things like that.  Think about it: People may die for false beliefs and spiritual experiences, but nobody dies to defend lies.

”For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)

The idea that the disciples made up a Pagan-like story and stuck with it until death just doesn’t fit with anything. The disciples were much smarter than that. Their writings prove it.

Welcome to The Loving Judge

Does the world really need another apologetic blog? I don’t know. But being a Christian, I would take the position that it can’t hurt. There are certainly several atheists, anti-theists, agnostics and sceptics out there, and we certainly need to face their accusations and correct their misconceptions. Why? Because the world deserves the truth.

God is deeply concerned for the salvation of all people. That includes the ordinary people who may feel torn between theism and atheism and haven’t really decided yet. But it certainly includes extreme, fundamentalist atheists as well. God actually cares for people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Dan Barker, and all the other individuals attacking the very concept of God.

My faith is not a blind type of faith. It’s rational, and it’s based on evidence. Now, evidence is different from proof. I do not claim to know, but I do claim that I have substantial reasons to think that the Christian worldview is the most reasonable explanation for this world. The concept of God is very likely to be true.

I’m not a scientist. I know little about biology and even less about cosmology. I’m not a famous philosopher. I may know a few things about Descartes, Kant and Hume, but I have no established reputation on such matters. I’m a theology student with great interest in such things, and I’m only interested in arguments that makes somewhat sense to lay-people. English is not my first language, and you might notice that from my posts. To a great extent, however, this may actually benefit my writing. I’ll keep things simple.

Thank you for listening.