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The Bible Week 7

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Elgin Hushbeck

New Testament manuscripts,  Age of Manuscript vs Age of Reading,  translations, citations by Church fathers, the attitude of early believers,  Council of Nicaea, Conspiracy theories,  Textus Receptus vs Modern Text, Textual issues,  1 John 5:7-8,  Matthew 15:5-6, Matthew  28:20, John 7:53-8:11 The woman caught in adultery, Mark 16:9-20, impact of textual issues on reliability, Joseph Smith’s “Inspired Version.”
A problem with the camera lost the remainder of this class.

Handout H  http://www.consider.org/Classes/Bible/HandoutH.htm

My Testimony

Sunday, September 13th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

I have written up my testimony in 5 part.

Part I – From Atheism to Theism

Part II – Exploring Theism and the New Age Movement

Part III – The Pros and Cons of Encountering Christians

Part IV – With the Mormons

Part V – For By Grace… The Gift of God.

Hitchens – God Is Not Great VII

Friday, July 25th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3 

In my extended review of Christopher Hitchens, “God Is Not Great,” we have finally reached chapter two. This is one of the problems with the Neo-atheists, as there are so many blatant errors and problems in their writings and with their arguments that even just picking out just some of the most obvious ones takes many posts. There were for example many more problems in Chapter one that I easily could have addressed, but I have decided to move one and will attempt to pick up the pace a bit with the hopes of one day finishing.

Hitchens begins this chapter asking why the belief in “infinitely benign and all-powerful creator” (pg 15) who watches over and cares for us, and who has prepared eternity for those who obey him, does not make believers happy? He goes on to state that, “religion does not, and in the long run cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. It must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths.” (pg 17) His prime example for this was Mother Teresa actions against a change in Irish Law to allow divorce.

To Hitchens and the other neo-atheists, no doubt this is a powerful and devastating indictment of religion. My reaction, on the other hand, is more along the lines of shaking my head and saying, so many errors, so little time.

Let’s start with Hitchens’ question about happiness. The simple fact is that believers are, as a general rule happier, as many polls have demonstrated. For example, an extensive survey of teenagers and young adults last year found that those who said that religion or spirituality was the most important thing in their lives were a third more likely to be happy than those for whom it was not important. So the premise of Hitchens argument is just false and the question we should be asking is why are so many of those who reject God unhappy? But I suspect the answer to this question would not support Hitchens as well.

Hitchens’ broader claim about interfering with the lives of nonbelievers is not so clear cut, though his prime example reveals some significant problems with his reasoning. Now it is certainly true, that Christians have at times interfered with the lives of non-believers. But this is not the black and white question implied by Hitchens.

While Hitchens points to negative examples of such interference to bolster his case, what about the positive examples? What about those Christians who felt compelled to interfere in the slave trade because they believed it to be immoral? What about those Christians today who feel compelled to interfere for the poor, the sick, and the persecuted around the world? Would the world really be a better place if Christians just closed their eyes to such suffering, as not any of their business? Would the world really be a better place if, instead of vigorously fighting to end the slave trade, William Wilberforce had adopted the secular motto of “who am I to judge”?

Just as Christians tend to be happier than atheists, numerous polls also show that Christians are more charitable as well. For example, the United States is not only more religious than Europe; it is the most charitable country in the world; and not only in total dollars, but in percentage of Gross National Product as well. In fact, the US gave more than twice as much as percentage of GNP than its closest competitor, England, and more than ten times than the far more secular France.

Even if you factor in Government “contributions,” in addition charitable giving by individuals, the US still gives nearly 50 percent more than England, and over twice as much as France. This difference between secular vs. religious giving continues within the United States as well, as states where religion is strong and important tend to out give the more secular states.

So while Hitchens bemoans interference, it is often good and to be commended rather than attacked. Even his example of Mother Teresa opposing a change in divorce law is problematic, though not surprising. I have frequently been told by secular opponents that my position on this or that political issue is invalid because it is “religious.” Carried to its logical conclusion such reasoning would make Christians and other people of faith second class citizens, whose very participation in the democratic process was suspect.

It would seem that for many secularists in democracy people are free to enact the social policies they want, just as long as those social policies cannot in any way be considered religious. Hitchens suggest that the Catholics could continue to follow their church’s teaching on divorce without “imposing them on all other citizens.” In other words, do what you want, but keep your religious noses out of social policy, that is for us secularist to determine based on what we think our reason tells us at any given moment.

Of course if the secularist were correct, one could just as easily ask why even have a Government policy on divorce or marriage at all. Just let everyone do whatever they want, for as soon as you have any policy at all, someone will not like it. While secularist I have talked to object to such counterarguments, when you look at the social trends and recent court rulings, that seems to be exactly where we are headed.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

Rational Evil V

Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

Listen to the MP3 

This week I conclude my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust by looking at one final disturbing trend.  So far I have looked at how in the attempt to maintain a belief in Human Rights apart from a belief in God, equal in the eyes of God became merely equal; where the differences among people were equated or just ignored.  

But Human rights was founded on another concept in addition to the belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God.  It was also based on the belief that we are special creations of God, created in his image. To remove God from the definition of Human rights mean also tossing out the idea that people are special creations of God. 

This was the most dangerous development for as we saw, the competing view is that rather than special creations of God, we are just animals that happen to have resulted from the undirected process of evolution.  But if this is the case, why should humans have any rights at all?

This of course would bring us right back to the thinking of Social Darwinism and Eugenics, the very thinking that led to the holocaust in the first place. No, a concept of Rights had to be maintained. But if we are nothing more than animals that resulted from the process of evolution, how could a concept of rights be restricted just to us? Wouldn’t other animals have rights as well? 

Thus was born the belief in animal rights.  While most people are still shocked by PETA’s campaign likening eating meat to a “holocaust on your plate” it is merely the logical outgrowth of the attempt to maintain a concept of rights apart from God.

While, extending the concept of rights to animals may be a logical step, it does not really solve the problem, but rather creates many more. If animals do have rights, how do these rights come into play when the lion kills a gazelle?  The normal answer is that the lion does not know any better, we do. But this has the effect of putting us below the animals, not equal to them.  Animals are free to do whatever they do, but our actions must be constrained by a notion of rights. 

In short animals and in a more general sense nature, over time came to be more valued than people. Worst still, since virtually anything we do has some effect we become a problem. In its most extreme form people rather than being a part of the environment came to be seen as a disease that must be controlled, or in some cases removed, as in the case of the Texas scientist who calls for the creation of a genetically engineered version of the ebola virus, that would kill 90% of the people on the earth, so as to lessen our damaging effect.

But these threats are not just theoretical.  One of the key aspects of the Judeo-Christian worldview is that people, as special creations of God, are more valuable than animals.  But in the new secular view people are less valuable, and for some even a problem. While rarely directly stated, it nevertheless works itself out in a myriad of ways.

For example, the major reason energy prices such as the cost of gas, heating oil, and electricity, are so high is because concerns for the environment restrict our ability develop energy. Most of these environment concerns make no sense apart from an absolutist view that people represent a danger to the planet and that anything we do would damage to environment, often despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Most of the real damage of this inversion of rights, are indirect and often do not appear until years later. Thus the limitation on oil drilling for the last several decades is only now beginning to have a real effect on the price of gas as the excess capacity that had existed in the system is now gone, and demand is beginning to exceed supply.

One of the clearest examples of the valuation of nature over people is also one of the earliest; the concern over insecticide DDT during the 1960s.  During the 1960s it was alleged that DDT caused the shells of some birds to weaken making it difficult for them to reproduce.  In order to protect these birds, DDT was ban. At the time of the ban it was pointed out that DDT was very important to controlling the spread of mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as malaria. But these arguments had little effect; the birds were more important than the people, and had to be protected.  After all, at the same time over population was also seen as a major problem.

It is now known that DDT was not the cause of the problems with birds, and in fact is really very safe. The effects of the ban are also clear.  Diseases that had been virtually eliminated in places have now returned.  Malaria alone kills between one and two million people a year. Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, for many a theoretical threat to the environment, is more important that the actual deaths of tens of millions and the ban remains in effect.

The first attempt to reconstruct society based on science rather than God, ended in the holocaust.  The subsequent attempt of reconstruct a concept of rights apart from God has resulted in not only more pain and suffering, but millions of deaths. Just perhaps the real problem is the attempt to remove God.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.