Am I Afraid of Atheism?

Revolution Church — which was founded by Jay Bakker and has followed him from Phoenix to Atlanta to New York City to its present home in Minneapolis — is a unique faith community. Yes, it’s small (at least in person; its online footprint, via the podcast, is much larger). But the people who attend are there for something that very few churches offer, and that’s brutal, unadulterated honesty. That’s what Jay brings each week, and that’s what those who attend are hoping for.

I cannot claim to be as honest or humble as Jay, but when he asks me to guest preach, I try to get in touch with my Inner Jay. That’s what I did last Sunday, in a talk entitled, “Should We Be Afraid of Atheism.”

Jay talks openly about his doubts. Several times, I’ve heard him admit at Revolution that he doubts daily whether God exists. At many churches, this would be disconcerting (see, for example, where the Archbishop of Canterbury admits his own doubts), but at Revolution, that’s the very thing that people come to hear.

I, too, doubt God’s existence — though less today than I used to. But that’s not what I talked about last Sunday. Instead, I talked about the doubts of others, and whether atheism is part of the legacy of the emerging church movement.

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You Don’t Know If God Exists…Or Doesn’t Exist

Friend of the blog and Yale philosopher Keith DeRose has a fascinating interview up at the NYTimes’s The Stone. On the heels of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s admission that he sometimes doubts the existence of God, Keith argues that no one knows whether God exists.

But, more politically unpopular these days, he argues just as strongly that atheists cannot prove — indeed, don’t even know — that God doesn’t exist:

The thought that God exists does strike many atheists as bizarre. But, in contrast to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, there are all of these theists and agnostics who do not find the thought of God’s existence bizarre, and I really think they ruin our atheist friends’ hopes for easy knowledge here. The basic point is that, when there are many other apparently sensible people who disagree with you, you need a good argument to claim that you know they’re wrong.

Keith’s point is that atheists can’t simply write off belief in a God because they find such a belief bizarre. That’s not a counter-argument.

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God Is Not Eternal

Writing a book on the atonement is like peeling the layers of an onion. Everything theological dilemma you solve only brings up two more dilemmas. So it was that I needed to write a section in the book on God’s relationship to time, because it seemed to make no sense to talk about God’s relationship to Jesus’ crucifixion unless I could explain God’s relationship to time.

So a couple weeks back, I write a post arguing that God is not outside of time. When he read that, Keith DeRose sent me Nicholas Wolterstorff‘s classic essay, “God Everlasting” (in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, New York: Oxford, 1982).

In that essay, Wolterstorff argues that God is not eternal, God is everlasting.

His argument proceeds thusly:

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Which Side of the Cross Are You On?

Scot McKnight made an interesting observation this week:

But the Abelardian and Girardian have an oft-missed sinister side, even if you may object to my saying so. In these theories we side with Christ and God and not those who put him to death. We end up being the good guys, the victims, while the bad guys — Roman and Jewish leaders, the gutless disciples, the whole damned human race — are the ones who put him there. We, on the other hand, know better. We’re innocent, they’re guilty.

Being that I’m writing a book on the atonement, this caught my eye. I’ve got chapters in the book on both the moral exemplar theory (Abelard) and the last scapegoat theory (Girard).

Scot is right, and wrong.

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