Tag Archives: Christians

A Rejoinder to Mr. Holloway

The following was printed as a letter to the editor of the Ruston Daily Leader on February 5, 2012, titled, “Man speaks out against alcohol sales”:

This is a response to the Jan.16 column by Mrs. Jessica Darden and the December City Council meeting:

First, I would like to address the City Council meeting held on Dec. 5. I have never been to a meeting that was any more insignificant than the one held on Dec. 5, 2011.

From before the meeting began, I was told that the vote was already decided and would be three to two against the majority of those present and, I believe, the majority of this city. The meeting was a waste of time. I learned that if you are a business in this town, what you want and say matters, and if you are a resident, your views are of no interest to the council.

We were actually told that the best thing that had happened in Ruston was the expansion of alcohol sales here nine years ago. Although no study had been done and no evidence was presented by the restaurant association, we were led to believe that the glorious growth of alcohol was the most progressive event in the last decade in Ruston. That may be one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard, with zero facts to support it. In fact, a study was presented from LSU that says the expansion of alcohol will never be a financial winner for a city. Only the ones who pay the most taxes matter and the people who live here may as well shut up and sit down. I hope the people of these districts remember that the next time they vote!

My second response is to Mrs. Darden, who in her column printed on Jan. 16 said that all of us “Bible Belt” people were all wrong. She said their generation needed to be allowed to make their own mistakes, of course she is assuming they live over this one. Unfortunately, a number of students traveling down the frontage road did not live over their mistaken choices. She said young people are going to drink whether it is legal or illegal. Well, using that reasoning, we could say that young people will always steal automobiles so just leave your keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked to make it easier on them. Is it really a gain during a recession as she says? It seems to me that during a recession, there is a greater need to purchase gas to get to work, food for the table and utilities for the home instead of going out on Sunday to get a buzz! One last thought is when she said “Let’s join together … to see just how much of an impact can be made right in our backyard.”

I like that slogan of “let’s join together,” and I want to invite the, I guess we will call it the “Bible Belt Crowd,” to join together and voice your displeasure with this expansion of liquor on Sundays, which us old Bible Thumpers call the Lord’s Day. I am asking all who claim to be Christians to choose to use your money wisely on Sundays. I know that I will support the restaurants that support family and faith over finances.

– Mike Holloway

This is my response, which was printed this morning:

Having read Mr. Holloway’s letter to your paper on Sunday, February 5, which concerned his displeasure with the recent changes to the law formerly prohibiting all alcohol sales on Sundays, I wish to make a few comments.

As a follower of Jesus, I have found myself consistently bothered by any language or practice which seems to have at its root a sort of religious legalism. (By “legalism,” I mean portraying in black or white actions that are in reality gray.) Whether or not Mr. Holloway subscribes to a form of legalism, it is precisely this sort of discomfort which a reading of his remarks elicited from me, and it is that which I wish to address.

First, Mr. Holloway seems convinced that legislation prohibiting alcohol sales will in some way either compel the citizens of Ruston to conform to the tradition of attributing to Sunday a special, but arbitrary, significance, or that it will prevent alcohol abuse. I argue that it will accomplish neither.

Concerning the former, it seems hardly appropriate to use the force of law to deny access on a single day to that which is perfectly legal on the six other days. I assume that Mr. Holloway would not suggest we reinstate Prohibition. In the case that the majority of citizens in Ruston wished to observe a special reverence for Sunday, it seems curious to me that a law should be necessary to enforce it. In the case that most citizens do not attribute a special significance to that particular day, the injustice of such a law seems greatly magnified, given that it forces on the whole the religious convictions of the minority. Such laws succeed, but only in falsely construing Christianity as a religion in which there is greater emphasis on religious tradition than on faith in Jesus. No law will ever change the heart, and people forced to conform to aspects of a religion to which they do not adhere naturally do not think favorably of it. One cannot legislate others into having reverence for God (not that reverence for God is dependent on abstaining from alcohol).

Secondly, it is not at all clear that a law prohibiting alcohol sales on Sunday will in any way deter people from consuming it, much in the way that laws prohibiting firearms at schools do nothing to prevent shootings. While I appreciate Mr. Holloway’s concern in wishing to prevent alcohol-related deaths, I see no reason to think the old law was successful in accomplishing this; but even if it were, it does not occur to me why dying from drunk driving on Sunday is somehow worse than suffering the same fate on Friday. Stockpiling enough alcohol to last one through Sunday seems an easy enough task, but I’ve known people to drive as far as Athens to acquire it. People who wish to consume alcohol, will, and if it is neither illegal nor sinful to consume (not abuse) alcohol on other days, I see no good reason whatever to attempt to prevent the practice through legislation.

My last and greatest concern is that the old law has the potential to misconstrue Christianity. Jesus was relentless in condemning the legalism of the Pharisees, pointing out that they cleaned the outside of the “cup” but ignored the inside. Perhaps my failure to understand the difference between Pharisaical legalism and laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sunday is simply due to my being obtuse.

Mr. Holloway places a special emphasis on Sunday, calling it the “Lord’s Day,” and asking Christians to “choose to use [our] money wisely on Sundays.” I would like to go even further and encourage Christians to use their money and their judgment wisely every day. Is not every day the “Lord’s Day?”

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” – Collossians 2:20-23

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Five Common Fallacious Arguments Against Theism

In the course of my discussions with atheists, and in hearing debates on the subject, I have found that there are a number of recurring arguments wielded against theism which are either logically fallacious or irrelevant. That is not to say that all arguments against theism are formally illogical, but many people repeat illegitimate objections without thinking through them; and while this is certainly as true of theists as it is of atheists, I want to address some of the more common objections made against theism. Though some of these objections are prevalent even among scholars, these arguments are especially common at the popular level. Note that this post is not intended to show that atheism is false, but merely to point out the fallacious nature of certain arguments given in its favor.

1.) Who made God?

This is a question very commonly asked of theists, and it is often regarded as somewhat of a “trump card.” However, this question merely demonstrates a misunderstanding of the nature of explanation.

In order for an explanation to be the best explanation, one need not have an explanation of the explanation. For instance, suppose some archaeologists unearth a bunch of primitive tools, pots, jewelry, etc, and they decide that the best explanation is that they have uncovered a village of some long-lost tribe that no one ever knew existed. Does it then follow that in order for the archaeologists to say that a lost tribe is the best explanation for their findings they must be able to explain the tribe (where they came from, who they were, etc)? Certainly not. If, in order to gain knowledge, one had to explain everything, it would clearly be impossible to learn anything.

This question is often posed in the context of the Cosmological Argument, which states:

1.) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2.) The universe began to exist.

3.) Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence.

Atheists very often misconstrue the first premise to say “Everything has a cause,” subsequently asking, “what caused God?” However, aside from the apparent caricature of the argument, there are several problems with this. First, if the intent is to attack the concept of God’s eternality, then an atheist is forced to accept one of the following: that the universe either came into being, uncaused, out of nothing, or that it is eternal. The former is logically absurd, since it violates one of the most basic axioms in metaphysics, which is ex nihilo, nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”); The latter espouses the very thing being attacked: namely, the concept of eternality (though it is also in conflict with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the great body of evidence in favor of the “Big Bang” theory).

Much more could be said on the nature of this argument, but a full treatment of the Cosmological Argument and its objections is outside the scope of this post.

2.) Belief in God is a result of one’s environment.

Often, theists or Christians are told that their beliefs are the result of having been brought up in a Christian home, or in an environment conducive to apprehending a certain set of beliefs (i.e. Living in the “Bible Belt”), and that if they had been born somewhere else (India, for instance) then they might be Hindu or Muslim. This is certainly true. The problem, however, is that in making this statement, the implication that theism is therefore false is guilty of the Genetic Fallacy, which is attempting to explain away a particular view by showing how the view originated. It’s true that people often come to believe certain things as a direct result of their culture or home environment, but that fact has absolutely nothing to do with whether those beliefs are true or false.

3.) There is no evidence for the existence of God.

I strongly disagree with this assertion, but let us assume that there is no evidence for God. Among forensic scientists it is virtually an axiom that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. For instance, in a court of law, the fact that there are no fingerprints of the butler on the knife is not itself evidence that the butler did not commit the murder. In order to show that the butler is not the murderer, the defense would need to provide some positive evidence that he is in fact innocent (an alibi). But the mere absence of convicting evidence is not evidence that the butler did not commit the murder.

The absence of evidence is only evidence of absence when two conditions are met:

1.) Certain evidence of a particular entity would be expected.

2.) The field in which that evidence would be found has been thoroughly surveyed and found lacking.

An example: Sitting in class, I would have good reason to suspect that because I see no elephant in the room, there is no elephant in the room. However, the fact that I see no flea in the room is not a justifiable reason for believing that there are in fact no fleas in the room. The difference is that in the first case we would expect to have evidence of the elephant, but in the second case we would not expect to have evidence of the flea. What kind of evidence would we expect to see in the case of God? No one can presume to know. This is precisely why atheism is not a justified “default” position, since even if there were no evidence for God it would not justify a belief that God does not exist.

4.) Religious belief has been the source of much violence and evil.

This is obviously true. One could also make the case that the same is true of atheistic belief, but the fact is that the implications of a belief are completely irrelevant in regards to whether that belief is true or false. I would maintain that the horrors committed by Christians in the past, as in the Crusades or the Inquisition, were committed in spite of Christianity, not because of it, but even if were true that Christianity sanctioned such things, it would not follow that Christianity is therefore false. To paraphrase Augustine, one should “never judge a philosophy by its abuse.”

5.) There are false religions, therefore all religions are false.

This fallacious argument is not one typically articulated in this fashion, but it is one frequently implied. Atheists often like to point to the most extreme, the most ridiculous, and the most absurd religions and its followers and imply that all religion is essentially the same. I’m thinking of Bill Maher’s documentary “Religulous,” for instance. While such cases make very easy targets (and thus very appealing targets), it is as irresponsible to lump all religious beliefs into one undifferentiated category called “Religion” and attack it as one, given the diversity of religious claims, as it would be to lump all scientists into a category called “Science” and attack it. That is, unless one is a materialist, in which case he may attack all claims of the supernatural outright as a result of his own religious presuppositions.

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“Good” Christians

What does it mean to be a “good Christian?” This is a phrase I occasionally hear in the south, and every time it makes me cringe just a little because it isn’t really clear to me just what it actually means. It seems most often used when someone is publicly declaring why they aren’t going to take part in a particular bad action (“…because I’m a good Christian”). But this seems silly. Why declare that you’re not going to do something you know to be wrong? Why not just silently refrain from doing it? Why distinguish yourself as a “good Christian” as opposed to….the other kind? I suppose the reason this irritates me so much is that it seems to be part of a culture that makes a special effort to project a certain image: that of a “good” person. But the irony of that endeavor is that if one does what they know to be right, their actions will speak for them and they need not bother trying to project an embellished facade.

Besides, one whose motivation for doing good is rooted in a concern for their own image is really no good at all, “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” The matter of importance is not the condition of our reputation but that of our heart, and attempts to manufacture our reputation without addressing the condition of our heart is like treating the symptoms before the actual disease. If one’s heart is in Christ, he will, by God’s grace, be compelled to do the good works it is impossible for him to do otherwise. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26).” Why? Because a true faith in Jesus manifests good works as a result. In this sense, the sense in which the Holy Spirit is at work in us, all Christians are “good,” not by anything wrought of our own hands, but we are made good by the Perfection of the One whom we serve, and the use of the term is, at best, an unnecessary redundancy.

I suppose, however, one must first ask what it means to be a Christian. After all, we’ve seen those with blatantly partitioned lives, who seem to have worked switching between their “good Christian” act and their “bad” act into a science; And if Christianity is based on adhering to a set of rules, then it seems to me that the term “good Christian” is perfectly acceptable, given that some people are better rule-followers than others.

But adhering to a set of rules isn’t Christianity at all: it is Islam (“To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward,” Surah 5:9). By contrast, Paul writes to the church in Galatia: “…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Galatians 2:16).” It seems very much the case that many people touting the Christian label, or even the coveted “good Christian” label, are in the practical outworking of their faith much more suitable followers of Allah than of Jesus, trying to check all the appropriate boxes on an exam for entry into heaven we’ve all already failed. The term “good Christian” reeks pungently of legalism, and it comes across to me as an attempt to let others know: “I do bad things, but I’m still a good person (whatever that means); And good people go to heaven.” If good people go to heaven, if good people even exist (Psalm 14:3), then I’ve got the wrong Bible.

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