5 more arguments for the existence of God

 

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St. Thomas Aquinas famously formulated 5 arguments for the existence of God.  Robert H. Nelson has formulated 5 more, reflecting modern modes of thinking.

They have to do with (1) the mystery of why mathematics, a mental construction,  applies so completely in the physical world; (2) the mystery of human consciousness; (3) new issues in evolutionary biology; (4) that revolutionary ideas have tended to occur separately but at the same time;  (5) the phenomenon of different forms of worship (including the way even non-religious ideologies such as Marxism assume religious forms).  These all suggest the existence of a mind behind the universe.

More details on these arguments after the jump.  See also Nelson’s book,  God?  Very Probably:  Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God.

Now I’m not sure such arguments, while interesting, get us very far.  They don’t get us to the incarnation of this God, or to His act of atonement on the Cross, or to His resurrection from the dead.

Faith is a curious kind of thing,” the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is a gift.  As the great thinker  J. G. Hamann said when his friend Immanuel Kant tried to argue him out of his conversion, you can’t argue me out of my faith because I was never argued into my faith.  Faith is a kind of revelation, the personal impact of the Word of Law and Gospel, so it’s very real, hard to shake, and yet a different kind of thing than the conclusion of a rational argument.

And yet, I do think apologetics can be helpful in clearing away obstacles and in reminding us all that Christian faith is connected to objective truth.

 

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The 221 religions

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)The United States military has nearly doubled its list of recognized religions to 221.

The list includes the various forms of neo-paganism, which is as sectarian as any other religion:  Druids, Heathens, Pagans, Shamans, Magick & Spiritualists, Wicca, Seax Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, etc.   But Satanists did not make the list.

The new list includes the various kinds of unbelief:  Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Deists, No Religion.

The earlier list had the one category “Jewish,” but this one usefully breaks down that religion into its  “Reform,” “Conservative,” and “Orthodox” strains.  Hasidic Jews are not listed, but Messianic Jews are.

It lists “Islam” as one group, but ignores the distinction between “Shi’ite” and “Sunni,” despite the current conflict between those two sects, which would seem to be important for our military to be aware of.

The Lutheran list is all confused.  “Lutheran Church in America,” “American Lutheran Church,” and the “American Evangelical Lutheran Church” are listed, though they no longer exist, having merged into the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (listed).  “The Lutheran Council in the USA”–never a church, just an organization of churches– is also defunct, having shut down in 1988.  More recent organizations are not listed.  Nor is the North American Lutheran Church, which broke away from the ELCA.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is on the list, but not the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  And yet smaller Lutheran groups, such as the Free Lutherans and the American and the Independent Lutherans, are on the list.  There is a category for “Lutheran Churches, Other.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if other traditions are similarly garbled.  So the list falls short of being a comprehensive catalog of American religions.  But it’s interesting nonetheless.

How this list will be used is unclear.  Expect an initiative to provide religious support for all of these groups, and expect Christian chaplains to be pressured accordingly.  Read this article about the list and see our post on religion in the military.

Read the whole list after the jump.

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Challenges for conservative churches in Scandinavia

ScandinaviaIn Finland, I taped three programs for the Christian television network.  The host, Leif Nummela, is a well-known figure in confessional Lutheran circles and in Scandinavian Christian circles in general.  On his program, Bible Café, we had wonderful discussions of the Bible, Grace, and Vocation (Luther’s three major contributions to Christendom as a whole).  The network goes out not only to Finland but to Sweden, Estonia, and Russia.

Finland is more religiously diverse than I had realized.  There are quite a few Pentecostals–I talked to a campus pastor from that tradition who said that one of his church’s problems is combatting the Prosperity Gospel–and American style evangelicals (Reformed, Baptist, non-denominational, etc.), though that term is mostly used in the old sense to refer to “Lutherans.”  And Emil showed us congregations of Adventists, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and Orthodox.  There is even a Mormon Temple in Finland, as well as mosques.  Most of the programming on TV7 is from the Pentecostal and general evangelical perspective.

Leif told me about some of the challenges for conservative congregations and church bodies in Finland and in Scandinavia as a whole. [Read more…]

Open communion that includes Muslims

2295355354_e65354babd_zIn Atlanta during Holy Week, the entire diocese of the Episcopal Church held a Mass in which the clergy renewed their ordination vows.  This was also an interfaith service.

The Scripture readings included a text from the Quran.  A Muslim woman gave the sermon.  Then, during the Eucharist, the Bishop communed her.

He later explained that his diocese practices “open communion.”  (Even for the unbaptized?  For non-Christians?)

The Muslim woman received the Host.  But, as a good Muslim, she declined the Wine.

At least someone in the service was faithful to her religion.

 

Illustration: Interfaith Banner, photograph by Sean, Flickr, Creative Commons License
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Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
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Shouldn’t liberals be going to liberal churches?

6209348934_ccf5e3159a_zMainstream liberal Protestantism is dying, with a decreasing number of people bothering to go to their churches anymore.  This is ironic because, in many ways, the message of those liberal congregations is now widely shared among our cultural elite:  be tolerant of all; be progressive; don’t worry about the supernatural; conform to the culture.  But though the cultural elite has embraced the social gospel of liberal Protestantism, hardly any of them bother with liberal churches.

Ross Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, argues in the New York Times that those who are liberal politically and culturally should start attending a liberal church.  Even out-and-out non-believers in the supernatural will experience little conflicts with their beliefs.  And there are benefits to church attendance that would be good for them.

Douthat says that it would be good for the cause of liberalism to be grounded once again in some kind of church.  Liberalism, to have an impact, needs an institutional home.  He also throws out this priceless line, referring to recent tendencies:  “Liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.”

Read what he says, excerpted and linked after the jump, but then consider:  Why is it that liberals tend not to go to liberal churches?  Can you have the benefits of going to a church without holding to its beliefs?  Why is mainline liberal Protestantism in such a state of decline?  What happens to a Christianity purged of its supernatural elements?

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