Moving on…

As I alluded to here, I’m moving on from writing posts that deal directly with the particular arguments and assumptions of the militant anti-theists. I started my inquiry into their anti-Christian polemics about two years ago.  My goal was to understand their arguments and give an answer to them or adjust my own thinking.  

What I found was both instructive and altogether unexpected.  Sadly, many are self-identified “deconverts” who seem to have traded one form of belligerent fundamentalism for another. Of course, it’s my observation and opinion, but I don’t think either one of these extremes will win the day in our current cultural climate. I will talk more about that another time.

A great article by David Bentley Hart on the so-dubbed “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins and his ilk, can be found here. Any believer who feels bullied by their anti-Christian attacks should read this article. It’s an excerpt from his book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. I would strongly suggest you get the book if you want to understand his arguments in more depth.

Here’s Hart’s general assessment of the New Atheist movement, which he came to after reading all their books:

“I think I am very close to concluding that this whole “New Atheism” movement is only a passing fad not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and “The Bridges of Madison County.” This is not because I necessarily think the current “marketplace of ideas” particularly good at sorting out wise arguments from foolish. But the latest trend in la mode godlessness, it seems to me, has by now proved itself to be so intellectually and morally trivial that it has to be classified as just a form of light entertainment, and popular culture always tires of its diversions sooner or later and moves on to other, equally ephemeral toys.”  (Continue article here…)

Hart is not implying that atheism itself will go the way of pet rocks, but that this particular aggressive strain of atheism propagated by the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett (know as the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism) will soon fade into such history.  He actually laments the poor quality of atheism we find today compared to that of earlier times. Again, he makes his case for this in the article so you would need to go there to see why he believes this to be so.

Hart summarizes his experience as follows:

“What I did take away from the experience was a fairly good sense of the real scope and ambition of the New Atheist project. I came to realize that the whole enterprise, when purged of its hugely preponderant alloy of sanctimonious bombast, is reducible to only a handful of arguments, most of which consist in simple category mistakes or the kind of historical oversimplifications that are either demonstrably false or irrelevantly true. And arguments of that sort are easily dismissed, if one is hardy enough to go on pointing out the obvious with sufficient indefatigability.” (emphasis added)

But this type of vitriolic diatribe is not just with the New Atheists. I believe this reactionary dumbing-down of meaningful public dialogue is a symptom of the greater cultural maelstrom we find ourselves in with popular media.  The shrill demagogues and ideologues have sucked all the oxygen out of the room and “us against them” polarization has taken the day. We’ve become relationally dysfunctional, unable to disagree and maintain open and honest communication. It’s all about hunkering down in our echo-chamber bunkers, trying to figure out how to refute the other side’s argument instead of actually understanding their argument.

So I’ve come to the same conclusion about this whole thing as Hart. But he puts it much more eloquently.

“And how long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists”with, that is, their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?”

To be fair, I would add that, as Hart puts it, “the sort of God believed in by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Deists (or the “god of the gaps”) that these atheists are actually railing against should also give way in the mindset of contemporary evangelical Christians to the more cogent classical understanding of theism. I talked about this here. I will continue to talk more about that.

So, I will be moving on to more interesting questions like, what is this Christian faith that turned the world upside down? Or, how we might better engage in today’s pluralistic marketplace of ideas.

Beloved of God, don’t buy into the circular arguments of the anti-theist’s philosophical naturalism or give in to their condescending browbeating as they try to shame you and make you look stupid with their pretentious certitudes. Question everything they tell you. Because, oftentimes, it’s nothing more than a straw man caricature of Christianity or scientism dressed up to look like science.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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50 Responses to Moving on…

  1. John Branyan says:

    Good. Leaving JZ, Nan, Taboo, Sklyjd, and the other godless goons seated atop their steaming pile of purpose is a wise idea. Rest assured, you will continue to be the featured subject of their vacuous dialogue.

    • Mel Wild says:

      It’s just a total waste of time to continue. I’ve learned what I set out to learn. As far as being featured on their blogs, I’m just glad that I can give their life meaning.

      • John Branyan says:

        I’ve met a couple of atheists who are at least civil. They’ll argue themselves into a corner and then they disappear from the conversation. That’s better than relentlessly repeating claptrap in order to declare victory for getting banned.

        I appreciate that you’ve learned from the pagans. I’ve learned much from them myself. I have much more respect for reason and truth than I had before I first engaged them. I gave comfortable lip-service to “Christian faith” but didn’t know how to articulate it. They have also given me a glimpse into the depraved futility that results from worshiping self. I’ve prayed many time, “Lord, don’t let me be stupid.”

        My daughter cautioned me against drawing a line in the sand and declaring I’ll never write about atheism again. She’s probably correct to do so but at this point, I’m honestly bored by the topic. By their own admission it is “content free” so there’s nothing to talk about. When we don’t speak, we’ve said everything there is to say about atheism.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I also have a couple of atheist friends who I can talk to at length without the playground taunts.

          My daughter cautioned me against drawing a line in the sand and declaring I’ll never write about atheism again.

          Probably good advice. For me, I think it’s more like I’m not going to deal directly with their fallacious arguments anymore. I did that to expose those for what they are for the benefit of believers. I prefer to talk to Christians about how we understand our own theology and life in Christ, maybe share some insights on how we could more effectively engage the culture. The godless horde are just one of the many voices in the culture. In that sense, I’m sure they will be mentioned.

          By their own admission it is “content free” so there’s nothing to talk about. When we don’t speak, we’ve said everything there is to say about atheism.

          That’s why all they have to talk about is why Christians and other religious people are stupid. They have nothing to be for. To me, the most boring thing in the world is to constantly talk about what you’re against. It would also drive me nuts to know my reason for being is incoherent.

      • Glad you realized what a waste of time these people are Mel.

  2. Wally Fry says:

    Matthew 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

    • jim- says:

      Shaking the dust off your feet is what immediately set a divisions between regular people. Horrible advice from a god, and now you. Do you have any idea the implications, the history, depth, and the utter meaning if that phrase, Wally? Look it up if you will. Scholars are nearly unanimous in its repugnant putridity.

      • Wally Fry says:

        Yeah, okay, Jim. Of course, you are correct that Mel should keep chasing you God haters around in circles. God actually doesn’t care about your opinion of Him, or your precious scholars. I promise you that my brother Mel will gladly engage ANY person who is truly seeking the truth and not just trying to get in his way as he teaches it. And yes, I actually do understand the historical and cultural background of that statement, just as I understand it’s application for today.

  3. g.w says:

    “what is this Christian faith that turned the world upside down?”

    Now, that is a bell that will never lose its chime! 🙂

  4. john zande says:

    Your new category focus doesn’t interest me much, but I wish you well in that new apologetics endeavour.

    As to the post, can you give some examples of these “handful of arguments” that Hart claims commit “category errors” and how he knows these mistakes have been made?

    And if we’re concluding some things, then perhaps you could tie up two loose ends? It would be greatly appreciated if you could.

    Firstly:

    You’ve spoken a lot on the subject of ontology. I assume you’ve done so because you believe the “why” questions are crucial to establishing a certain logical base to a (your) worldview. Generally speaking, I’d agree. That being the case, may I ask you what is unquestionably the greatest ontological question there is for a thinking believer such as yourself:

    Why did the Creator create? For what purpose was this evolving artificial world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off (evolving) material scape?

    Just to frame this Why question: If we’re to accept the general Christian theological stance on the nature of the god named Yhwh (aseitic, maximally good, etc.) then we know Aquinas’ answer was wrong: bonum diffusivum sui (goodness spilled out) is not only demonstrably inconsistent, but also logically impossible. An aseitic being has neither the capacity to grow, nor the means to leak and spread out into something new, for that would contradict the very definition of aseity. Accidental or not, an aseitic being cannot “spill out,” and even if it could somehow increase its size (its being) then any ‘new space’ would simply be part of the maximally good/aseitic being, indistinguishable, and that is inconsistent with our world which is a finite and evolving scape filled with pain, suffering, scarcity, errors, death.

    What that means, of course, is that ours in an artificial world; a construct that was deliberately created some 13.8 billion years ago, entirely separate from the Creator. A “constructed” world is a false world. It is an unnatural, synthetic contrivance; a petri dish quarantined from the actual world (all that which is the aseitic Creator), and we know this because this world is sealed between the three things an aseitic being could never directly experience, but could impose on an artificial scape: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    You seem to recognise this, stating “God is NOT the Universe” and “I believe the “world” is a construct.” If this is your position, and I think it is as you’ve repeated this sentiment many times, then it screams for an ontological explanation:

    Why did the Creator create? For what purpose was this evolving artificial world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off (evolving) material scape?

    And lastly:

    Could you perhaps now address a question which I first put to you nearly 2 years ago, and which you promised a reply, but never carried-through on? Since then, intermittently as the opportunity has arisen, I have asked this very same question perhaps as many as two-dozen times. You’ve avoided answering it every time. It stems of course from teleology, which I believe to be the most critical (factual/quantifiable) field of study regarding God, and it rises from William Paley’s observation:

    “Contrivance proves design, and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer”

    ).

    So, Mel, hopefully for the last time: What is the predominant tendency of the contrivance?

    I understand it might take you some time to get your thoughts together in answering these questions, but I do hope you do (at least try to) answer them.

    • John Branyan says:

      The predominant tendency of the contrivance is to produce delicious excrement.
      I’m going to miss your steaming piles of purpose littered all over the comment section.

      • john zande says:

        You’re speaking for Mel, huh? Fair enough.

        Thanks for passing on his answer to the second question. His honesty surprises me, but is most certainly appreciated.

        He did not however address the first Why question. This is a little puzzling, for as you well know, Mel has spent two years proclaiming just how enormously important the Why question is to a worldview. Without an answer—he’s said literally hundreds of times—a worldview is rendered fatally “incoherent”, and can be dismissed because of this incoherency.

        Given this clear priority Mel places on the Why question, and the coherency an answer provides, perhaps you can ask him again, and relay his answer:

        Why did the Creator create? For what purpose was this evolving artificial world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off (evolving) material scape?

        Thanks (to you and Mel) in advance. I look forward to reading his answer.

        • John Branyan says:

          The purpose of evolving artificial world is to produce excrement. TOOAIN’s motivation is outlined in your book.
          You’re welcome.

        • john zande says:

          Thanks, that affirms the predominant tendency of the world, of its output, but as I’m sure you can see, Mel hasn’t actually answered the foundational Why question. He’s simply describing the world, not addressing Why it exists—in the manner that it exists—in the first place.

          As Mel’s been crystal clear on the importance of knowing the Why, could you ask him again, please?

          Given the Creator didn’t need to create this world, Why did the Creator create this evolving artificial world?

          Thanks in advance.

        • John Branyan says:

          Somtimes people won’t recognize your perfection.

        • Mel Wild says:

          JZ, how is it that you’ve been on my blog for two years and you still don’t know the answers to these questions? If you actually wanted to know, you wouldn’t need to ask them by now. But since you continue to do so, your motives are obviously disingenuous.

          4-5 There is no good way to answer fools when they say something stupid. If you answer them, then you, too, will look like a fool. If you don’t answer them, they will think they are smart. (Prov.26:4-5 ERV)

        • john zande says:

          Because you’ve never answered this question.

          Given the Creator, Yhwh, didn’t need to create this world, Why did the Creator, Yhwh, create this evolving artificial world? For what purpose was world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off (evolving) material scape?

          I genuinely look forward to reading your answer.

          Thanks.

        • john zande says:

          So, you can’t actually answer this question, then?

          You have no idea Why the Creator created. You have no idea Why the world even exists—in the manner that it exists—in the first place.

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but according to you—as repeated literally hundreds of times over the last two years—your worldview (on which you earn a living) is, therefore, incoherent.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, I have answered why God created several times, so you are lying. To continue to waste my time answering you when I’ve written several posts on it makes me the fool. You’ve proven over and over again that you ask questions then you dismiss or ignore the answer.

        • john zande says:

          I certainly haven’t seen an answer, and if you had one, as you say, then why have you purposefully wasted three opportunities (so far) to give it?

          So, what is it?

        • john zande says:

          I’m afraid your silence speaks volumes, Mel. You can tell me a thousand times you have an answer, but until you actually present that answer, well…

          The truth is, you can’t answer the question, can you. You have absolutely no idea Why the Creator created. You have no idea Why this artificial world even exists—in the manner that it exists—in the first place.

          Well Mel, provided you stand by your own words, repeated hundreds of times, your worldview (on which you earn a living) is, therefore, incoherent.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Ha ha. You wish. I think you’ve been talking to yourself here, Zande. I’ve been gone since Sunday morning. I will post (again) my take on why God creates later this week.

        • john zande says:

          That’s four comments now in which you’ve failed to give what really should be a simple one or two line answer.

          Could you just answer the question here, where it’s been asked, please?

          Given the Creator didn’t need to create this synthetic, evolving world, Why did the Creator create it? For what purpose was this world intended? What function does it (and evolution) serve? What was the Creator’s motivation in creating this sealed-off (evolving) material scape?

        • John Branyan says:

          I already answered his question.
          TOOAIN created Zande to produce excrement. It’s airtight.
          JZ excreted an entire book which proves it.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I know Zande’s answer. It might be airtight, but it’s not very compelling.

        • John Branyan says:

          He’s a troll, my friend.
          You are giving him way too much attention.
          He helpfully (albeit, accidentally) provided us with a response to his every comment. His purpose is to produce excrement. Just congratulate him on fulfilling his purpose.

          He built a gallows called TOOAIN and placed his neck in the noose. You’ve tried to help him. I think it’s time to let him swing.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Quite so. Proverbs 26:4-5 was written with Zande in mind:

          4-5 There is no good way to answer fools when they say something stupid. If you answer them, then you, too, will look like a fool. If you don’t answer them, they will think they are smart.

          That’s why I give will my answer (again) for why I think God creates in a separate post. I’m not doing it for Zande’s benefit because his questions are disingenuous, used as a pretext. I will explain for those who actually want to know the answer.

        • john zande says:

          Are you really not capable of giving this (alleged) answer here, now?

          Why the song and dance routine?

        • John Branyan says:

          I understand.
          It seems (to me anyway) that those who are actually interested in answers aren’t asking the same stupid question over and over and over. Zande never asks questions that are interesting to genuine truth seekers.

        • john zande says:

          It seems (to me anyway) that those who are actually interested in answers aren’t asking the same stupid question over and over and over.

          If you (or in this case, Mel) just answered the question when asked, and not embark on an evasive song and dance routine, then said question wouldn’t have to be repeated over and over and over… would it?

          Zande never asks questions that are interesting to genuine truth seekers.

          You’re not interested in Why Yhwh created this evolving, synthetic world in which you find yourself, uninvited?

        • John Branyan says:

          Another perfectly executed fulfillment of your purpose. Your consistency is astounding.

        • john zande says:

          You didn’t answer the question….

        • John Branyan says:

          Me: “The purpose of evolving artificial world is to produce excrement. TOOAIN’s motivation is outlined in your book.”

          You: “Thanks, that affirms the predominant tendency of the world…”

          What’s great about your purpose is truth isn’t necessary! When you’re goal is produce a pile of crap, it makes no difference what you say.

        • john zande says:

          So you believe TOOAIN is the Creator.

          OK.

        • John Branyan says:

          There is only one Creator. Call it whatever you like.

        • john zande says:

          So you believe TOOAIN is the Creator.

          OK.

        • John Branyan says:

          Yes.
          There is only one creator.
          Call it whatever you like.

          Ok.

        • john zande says:

          OK, John Branyan believes TOOAIN is the Creator.

          Care to stop speaking now? It’s rather boring.

        • john zande says:

          Delicious excrement is simply a residue. The answer, as given, was wrapped up in one simple line: Curiosity is a stubborn power.

        • john zande says:

          But to be clear, we’re not talking about TOOAIN. We’re talking about the Creator you and Mel believe in, the god of the Pentateuch: Yhwh.

        • John Branyan says:

          You have fulfilled your purpose.
          Congrats again.

        • john zande says:

          I’m afraid your silence speaks volumes, Mel. You can tell me a thousand times you have an answer, but until you actually present that answer, well…

          The truth is, you can’t answer the question, can you. You have absolutely no idea Why the Creator created. You have no idea Why this artificial world even exists—in the manner that it exists—in the first place.

          Well Mel, provided you stand by your own words, repeated hundreds of times, your worldview (on which you earn a living) is, therefore, incoherent.

        • john zande says:

          *apologies for the double comment

  5. …don’t buy into the circular arguments of the anti-theist’s philosophical naturalism or give in to their condescending browbeating as they try to shame you and make you look stupid with their pretentious certitudes. Question everything they tell you. Because, oftentimes, it’s nothing more than a straw man caricature of Christianity or scientism dressed up to look like science.

    To be truly fair and equitable Mel, that argument goes both ways just the same. It isn’t exclusion that is going to better life and humanity. It will always be inclusion and respectful discourse… something that struggles here on your blog for several reasons.

    Have a good weekend. ❤

    • John Branyan says:

      BRAVO!
      Your words are chock full of syllables!
      Inclusion and exclusion are both mutually beneficial in the kaleidoscope of respectful betterment of sustainable parallax humanity as it unfolds inclusively toward our innermost outer reality.
      Bravo, good sir!

  6. I appreciate this post Mel. But I’m also really glad you took the time to engage these arguments and to address the Christian response, everything from classic apologetics to science! I’ve enjoyed following along.

    I’ve actually learned a great deal from some atheists and they’ve served to strengthen my faith, so I’m actually quite grateful for some of them. Some Christians don’t really get into the word, we can’t really articulate what we believe in, and our relationship with the Lord is not intimate, personal. So I was very fortunate to be tested early on. Ha! I sometimes joke about how I may never have read the bible myself, if it weren’t for so many people telling me not to.

  7. Linda Gardiner says:

    A few verses come to mind. Proverbs 12:23 – The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness. Proverbs 13:16 – Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness. Proverbs 14:29 – People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness. Proverbs 15;2 -The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. 1 Corinthians 3:19 – For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”

    Mel, I appreciate your desire to learn and to engage respectively with others who disagree with you. I agree with you that moving on is a good idea. Trying to engage with people who are not sincerely trying to seek knowledge is like a dog chasing his tail. I believe that your purpose to learn has been fulfilled and now it is time to move forward. Matthew 7:6 says, “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.” Matthew 13:15 states, “For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.”

    I love your compassionate heart and your sincere desire to share the goodness of God with others and the truth of living in freedom. Your time and gifts are better spent on people who respectively engage in sincere discovery of truth, rather than trying to belittle or make a mockery of you.

    Each person’s spiritual journey starts with a sincere desire to seek truth and as Matthew 7:7-8 so beautiful states: Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Until a person has a personal encounter with God or at least the desire to seek out the truth, his/her mind will be closed to any truth or knowledge.

    Respectively,
    Linda Gardiner

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your insights, Linda. What’s funny about the whole thing is that I really don’t like apologetics that much! Kind of like political debates. LOL! And I never thought for a minute that I would convince hardened, fundamentalist anti-Christians. And I never really wrote directly to them, but my thoughts were always directed to believers who are constantly being bullied for their faith by these militants, and often struggle to believe. We have strong reason to believe. But a truly transformed heart is the best defense there is, and an encounter with Jesus always overcomes an argument! But I felt led by God during this season into this strange world and have learned a LOT from it. I think every believer should seek to understand those who have left the faith and engage the world Jesus loves. But I felt a release, the time has come to move on. I will devote my time here to why the gospel is really the good news that brings great joy! 🙂

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