Monday, February 16, 2015

The Beauty of Hozier's Church | Audio Review

If you like this song,
you might not want to watch/read this...

At first this song seems great, "take me to church." That's what our culture needs to hear. Although there is a natural need for worship, the singer lacks absolution. Although he has practiced a sort of love and communion, it ends.

The music video relays the story of idolaters. The two main characters are homosexuals who attempt to burry their secret. They fail. Their worship of sexuality is severely punished. The other characters who find the secret judge the others. They break into the main character's house, drag him out, and burn him alive with his secret. They worship legalism. They bow down to the Law.

The Law is a good thing. But, apart from Grace, (just like everything else) it is nothing.

Tullian calls this sort of legalism/idolatry cheep Law. The accusers believe that they are able to build utopia. They can create a culture free from sin. They just need to burn up their neighbors in order to do so. They're too blinded by the plank in their eye to see what their hands are doing. They don't have a view of deep Law, but only cheep Law. They don't realize that no one can complete the Law other than The One who has already done so. They don't realize that their sin is just as bad as their neighbors. All of these characters long to worship, but do not recognize the One to worship...

Our world cries out for Church. But, if in Church only the Law is found..... Then, that's not Church at all. (Need an example, check out what Jesus says to the Pharisees, the brood of vipers and white washed tombs...)

The Church is a place for sinners...
If you have to be perfect to be welcomed in,
the Church's doors would have all been closed a long, long, time ago.

Once, you understand the meaning of this song, its disturbing. But, it should be. The hard fact is that the world needs Church. But, the caring, loving, grace-filled, people have often become little more than an empty, hardened, condemning steeple.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


"'The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.' It turns out the problem wasn't limited to an age group. In 2007, The New York Times reported that three in ten American women confess to taking sleeping pills before bed most nights. The numbers are so high and unprecedented that some are calling it an epidemic....
This came across my screen about the same time that the news broke about the meteoric rise of Americans claiming no religious affiliation, shooting up from 7 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2010. When those under the age of thirty were polled, that percentage more than doubled again, to nearly 35 percent. While the numbers themselves were a bit of a shock, I wish I had been more surprised by the findings. From my vantage point as a pastor, I can tell you, it is truly heartbreaking out there.
The Good News of God's inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world has never been more urgent...
Anything else is an unquestioning embrace of performancism in all sectors of life. Performancism is the mindset that equates our identity and value directly to our performance and accomplishments. Performancism casts achievement not as something we do or don't do but as something we are or aren't... what people think of us are more than descriptive; they are synonymous with our worth...
It is high time for the church to honor its Founder by embracing sola gratia [by grace alone] anew, to reignite the beacon of hope for the hopeless and point all of us bedraggled performancists back to the freedom and the rest of the Cross..."
The Taskmaster (above) was thrown off by the need to perform his own works, create his own merit, build up his own version of himself. Because of his irreconcilable past, there would be no way for him to be a "good guy again." But, that's not where the story ends.
In some way, even this character had been used for good all along. Although he could never pay the world back for the damages he had done, he had merit and use to those who knew his value.

In another way, God gives us merit and use even in our weakness when we come to Him.

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you're free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you're free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you're free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you're free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you're free to fail..."

Read more in "One Way Love" by Tullian Tchividjian.

Check out his streamed event next month.

Find out more about the Taskmaster's origin.

Radiance | Transfiguration Saturday 2015

***Audio coming soon.


2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Because we have received this mission just as we have received mercy, we do not faint, instead, we have renounced the hidden shame. We do not walk in craftiness nor falsify the word of God, instead, by making known the truth, we commend ourselves to every conscience of men before God.

And, if our gospel is concealed, it is concealed to those perishing in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that the radiance of the gospel of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine. It is not because of ourselves that we proclaim, but because of the Lord, Christ Jesus, and we are servants of you, for Jesus[’ sake]. For God spoke: “Out of darkness, light will shine.” He shined in our hearts, for the radiance of the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Christ.

Children’s Message: “Alleluia”

What word do we stop saying during Lent? Guesses… It’s “Alleluia!!” Do you know what that means?? … It’s “Praise Ye the Lord.” That means “Everybody Praise God.” Why do you think we don’t say it during Lent? … At a funeral, if one of your friends was crying because they loved the person who died and they missed them, would you say, “Praise God!?” No… They probably wouldn’t like that very much. It’s the same way in Lent. Lent is the time that we think of the price that Jesus paid for us, he died so that we can live. It is the time that we miss him the most. And, then on Easter, we shout “Alleluia!!” Because Christ has won. He rose from the dead and we share that word with others.

Lead them in the song “Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia, praise ye the Lord…”

Mark 9:2-9, 2 Cor. 4:1-6

+ Grace, mercy, and peace to you from
God the Father and Jesus Christ,
His Son, our Lord. Amen.

All these words, hear them with your ears. But, hold them with your hearts.

(That the hearers lift the veil to share the light… repentance to proclamation.)

There was a man who didn’t know what “Alleluia” was. He had enough of his life behind him to realize that something was missing and just enough of his life in front of him to know he needed to find it soon. | He did not want to run out of time before he found what was missing. | He might have been a lot like you or a lot like me.

He decided to start a journey, he wanted to find what would fit in the hole in his heart. He packed up a bag full of clothes, bought his ticket, and flew out to experience the world in the East. It wasn’t very long before he realized that everything over there seemed to be backwards from where he had come. They ate their food with sticks instead of scepters. Their voices made different tones to create different meanings instead of the monotony he had grown up with. They didn’t even wear the same types of clothes or drive cars. Most people walked everywhere they went.

He had lived there for a while and some of the most inspiring things came from the festivals he saw. Many of them were filled with rituals and prayers. The ones that stuck out the most always had to do with light. Whether it was sending candles over the water or attached to paper balloons and sent into the sky, flames on a menorah or celebratory fireworks, something about the flame stood out to him. It was easy for him to relate it to his own life. In a way, he thought, he was just another light, a flicker, in the vastness of the world and its universe.

Although, he traveled his heart was still empty. He met many different people from many different nations and he grew to understand them. As he got to know them, he grew close to them. He learned that in other countries shame is the worst thing you could ever bring to your family. Men lived for honor and glory, but if they gave into shame, it would be quick blot out any good deed. They would live in dismay as if they were cursed.

As he traveled, the man remembered that his time was running short. He had to find the thing to fill the emptiness. He decided to come back to America. He would take the train from state to state. Maybe he would find it there.

After riding by coach for days on end, he realized that the United States was far more diverse than he ever realized. There were mountains, valleys, fields, and seas as well as people of all different cultures, shapes, and sizes. He heard stories from other travelers who had come across bears and other wild beasts. As they relayed their fear for their lives, he remembered the rituals of the East. He thought of just how small of a flame he was once again.

Although he had traveled from coast to coast, north to south, and even into the non-continental territories of his homeland, the traveler did not find what he was looking for. He remained empty. Money spent and exhausted, he finally decided to go back home. He might have been a lot like you and a lot like me.

It seems like there is so much going on in our lives. We have full schedules and obligations. Finding enough time to get in our hours at work, eat a decent meal, and sleep the hours we need is hard enough let alone going to the gym or reading the Bible. By putting others first, we become last. And, somehow we become empty, our lights are dimmed, we forget to sing “Alleluia.”

I’m not going to tell you how to manage your time, I don’t have a “ten-steps-to-a-better-life” program. I can only tell you what happens next. The traveler, disgruntled, unhappy, alone, gets to his house which he hasn’t seen in many months. He unlocks the door. He walks in. He is home. But, the void is still there. It isn’t very long until he decides to check his mail. There, he finds an invitation. It’s from his good friend. She has invited him to church.

Now, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But, to our traveler it is everything. This means that he matters. He matters to someone. He takes his friend up on the invitation. He doesn’t realize it right away, but the church has been what he was looking for. It had been there, back at home, this whole time. Even more-so, it’s not the Church that he had looked for, but the hope that fills his heart when he comes and hears the Word of God. It’s not this building, but the assembled witnesses and fellow servants of the Lord, Jesus Christ, whom he comes to know and love.

Being an American, he had heard of Jesus before. He was the one who said just looking at a woman with lust-filled intent was a sin. He was the one who said that slander is murder. He is the one who condemns those who are immoral. But, as he is drawn in by this invitation, he begins to understand that Jesus is so much more.

Jesus is filled with grace and love and truth. The reading for today draws us back to the time of Elijah. Do you remember when he ran away? He was running for his life, fleeing from those who persecuted him. He ended up climbing to the top of a mountain, hiding there in a crevice. | Empty. | There was a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But, it is not until a voice confronts him and commands him to go back home that he hears the Word of God. He continues his ministry by the Spirit.

It is later, when Elijah is about to leave, his time is running short, that his friend Elisha begins to feel the void. Everywhere that Elijah and Elisha goes, Elisha reiterates with surprise, “Do you know that the Lord is taking Elijah??” What will we do when he leaves? Elijah gives him a gift, the gift of the Spirit, and Elisha is able to carry on the ministry without his friend.

There is another man who is mentioned who had once ran. Moses met his Lord for the first time on holy ground, speaking from the fiery bush. He knew that he was empty, he was burnt out; he was missing something. And, the Lord filled him with mission. He chose Moses to free his people, to take them to the Promised Land. But, first to take them through the wilderness so that they might better-know their Lord.

Still, both Elijah and Moses are just flickers, little lights, in an impossible huge world. Their embers created sparks in the lives around them, but they were nothing, they were empty, apart from God. It is these men who Jesus has join him on the mountain-top. They were not there to eat, drink, and be merry. They were not there to take over the government. They were not there to build tents. They were there to radiate the knowledge of God.

The flames of these apostles were first lit by the Spirit of the Lord. Because they had seen his face, they could do nothing other than spread his word. They understood the promise, that God’s people would be made righteous again. They would be made clean. They would be fixed so that they no longer lived in shame, emptiness, and darkness. Their emptiness was filled. They would live in the light of God. Jesus Christ died so that they might live in the forgiveness of their sin, their emptiness, and their darkness.

At the other side of the cross, Paul writes about the boldness he has because of the hope that is in him. Just like Elijah; just like Moses; just like us, the scales were removed from Paul’s eyes. He could do nothing other than to radiate the light that he had blinded him on the road to Damascus. He does not lose heart. He does not live in shame, being disgraceful or underhanded. He does not lie, tampering with what he had witnessed. He shares the truth.

This is not because he wants to. It is because it is his life. It is no longer he who lives, but Christ who lives in him. Although he had once been blinded by the darkness and the shame of the world around him, Paul has now become blinded by the light of God. He becomes the servant of all those who would cling onto God’s Word with him. All who hear this good news, the story that brings fulfillment into empty lives, will believe. There’s something in us that just know it’s true.

The only hindrance is the god of this world, the one who snarls and roars, claiming that you are no better. You are a disgrace. You lie. You are empty. But, the light of Christ blows that all away. He points out how thin and unstable his enemy’s arguments truly are. Just in seeing Christ, we see the image of God. He has made himself known to us. And, it was of him who God spoke to the world and said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”

This news radiates in our lives. We become like the kid who has heard something so exciting that he just can’t help but share. He goes around the neighborhood on his bike and yells loud enough to wake up the neighbors. He lights up his Facebook and Twitter feeds, even his Instagram gets posts that Jesus Christ has come. Although we are sinners, we no longer live in shame. Although, we have been fumbling around in this dark world, Christ has become the light so that we can see. He gives us the hope, the mission, the boldness to live lives not with emptiness, but with meaning. “Alleluia!”

It seems so strange to end on a note of praise. Lent starts this Wednesday and our “Alleluia”s will be taken from us. We will mourn. For forty days, we will remember what Jesus Christ has done for us. He entered the world in order to save the world. And, that salvation came with a price. He died. Even in our lament, we radiate his message, his news, his witness. We cannot help but praise him for what he has done, to share the news with our neighbors, in a bold hope that after this season is over we will celebrate with a stronger “Alleluia!!” than we had ever known before. “Praise ye the Lord.” Amen.

Now, may the peace that passes all our understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from this time forth. Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What's The Point... Of Prayer?? | Craig Answers


What Is the Point of Prayer?

  Dear Dr Craig,

I have recently moved on from Christianity to agnosticism, but I regularly check out your Q and A section as much of the content there is more sensible and thought provoking than the kind of thing I hear from a lot of Evangelicals.

So I figured that if there even is a satisfactory answer to my enquiry, you'd know about it.

My question is this: what is the point of prayer? Here prayer is defined as an attempt to communicate with God.

God either can read our thoughts or he cannot. If he can read our thoughts, there is surely no need to try to transmit or broadcast them to him as he already knows what they are. If he cannot read our thoughts, then any thought-based effort to contact him is futile. It doesn't matter what type of prayer it is (eg petition, thanksgiving, repentance), there is no point in making any effort to send it up to him.

Of course, Christianity generally holds that God is omniscient and therefore able to read our thoughts, so the first of these scenarios would be the applicable one. The characteristic of omniscience makes the concept of prayer all the more redundant as it means God already knows any information that might be communicated to him, and exactly what the best thing is to do about it, so prayer could not in any way influence his decisions.

I am well aware that the Bible commands us to pray in numerous instances, but in the light of this argument this strikes me as an incredibly arbitrary thing for a good God to command, and thus makes the reliability of the Bible all the more questionable to me.

Currently it seems to me that the idea of prayer is most sensibly explained as an addictive placebo that gives people a greater sense of control over their circumstances than they actually have.

But just maybe there's something crucial I've missed, and if so I would be grateful if you could point out what that might be.



Dr. Craig responds:

Boy, Joe, the reasons you moved away from Christianity to agnosticism had better be a lot stronger than this, or you’re in real danger of backsliding!

Yes, God can read our thoughts. So how is that problematic for the spiritual discipline of prayer? You say, “there is surely no need to try to transmit or broadcast them to him as he already knows what they are.” Hold on, Joe! Seriously, do you think prayer is a matter of providing God information? You defined prayer as communication with God. You don’t communicate with another person through a third-person relationship. You enter into what has been called an “I-thou” relationship. You speak to another person, not just about that person. Your girlfriend or wife would be decidedly unimpressed if you rationalized never telling her “I love you” on the grounds that she already knows that! Anybody that obtuse is on his way to a break-up! Two people who are in love with each other want to speak to each other, to build an intimate relationship with each other.

So, sure, God reads my mind, and that enables me to pray to Him at any moment, even when audible prayers would be inappropriate. I can shoot up a thought-prayer, “Thank you, Lord!” or “God, give me wisdom!” at a moment’s notice. This is what people in a relationship do. Can you imagine anyone so obtuse as to say, “I don’t have to thank John for what he did for me because he already knows I’m grateful”? Or “I don’t have to apologize to Susan because she already knows I’m sorry”?

Moreover, did it not occur to you that such personal communication may be good for you? I-thou relationships open you up as a person, to make you a more loving, transparent, and vulnerable person. Prayer to God is the same way. God knows what is good for us and so wants us to talk to Him.

Of course, Joe, I’m talking about the prayers of someone who has experienced a spiritual rebirth and so is in a right relationship with God. I’m not talking about the rote or scripted prayer recited by an unbeliever. Doubtless, that sort of prayer is meaningless to you as an agnostic. Your prayer needs to be something like, “God, reveal yourself to me! I open my heart and life to you.”

You have a second, different objection to prayer: “omniscience makes the concept of prayer all the more redundant as it means God already knows any information that might be communicated to him, and exactly what the best thing is to do about it, so prayer could not in any way influence his decisions.” This is an objection to the efficacy of prayer. What the objection overlooks is that God can take prayers (or the lack thereof) into account in His providential planning of the world. Knowing that Joe would freely pray in a certain set of circumstances, God may actualize a world in which Joe’s prayers are answered; but had God known that Joe would not pray, God may have actualized something else instead. Prayers, then, are not an effort to change God’s mind. Rather God takes account of prayers in choosing which world to actualize. Prayers thus make a counterfactual difference: if I were not to pray, then something else would have been the case instead. Knowledge of this sort is called “middle knowledge,” and there’s a lot on this website about this fascinating topic.

Joe, on the basis of your question, I can’t help but suspect that while you may have been nominally a Christian, you never really experienced a true relationship with God. If that’s right, then walking away from a nominal, lifeless religion may be the first step toward finding a life-changing, spiritual relationship with God. Keep going!

Have a Question for Dr. Craig? Submit it here.
To read more questions / answers, visit the Q & A Archive.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rescue Freedom | Ministry of the Month (02.15)

February is the month of love. Saint Valentine's Day is remembered, praising the opportunity to unite hearts as one. It seems as if every third commercial reminds a man to bring flowers home for his wife. But, our earthly love is broken.

One of my seminary professors used to say that adultery, the abuse of an institution meant to bear life and make a relationship thrive, only brings death. Jesus' reiteration of the old Law, that adultery is committed in the heart, adds severity to this command... including lust as an equivalent to steeling your brother's wife.

There is a "joke" around today that three-fourths of men have admitted to watching porn and the other fourth are lying (the number of women is fewer, but growing). Maybe part of the problem is the assumption that porn doesn't hurt anybody... It's easy to rationalize away the fact that it's harming your own relationship with the opposite sex or the fact that the sensual act has been caught on camera in the first place (you never think of the man behind the lens). The whole thing's staged. How did the women arrive at the filming room? How sick and tormented must her life, her relationships, her sensuality be in the first place?

These women need our help...

Not our views...

The charity of the month is Rescue: Freedom.

It is difficult to realize just how much goes into saving women from the fate of sex trafficking. We often get it wrong. We want to help, jumping into our neighborhoods and going undercover in order to expose the perverted beast. But, there are already institutions set up by people who know what they are doing. They are the ones who both know how and know what they need to do to get things done.

One of the best ways we can help is also one of the easiest. Donate.

There is hope:

Ella’s Story

Although very poor, Ella’s family had a small home in their Moldovan village. As one of the oldest of 11 children, at age 15 Ella needed to work to help provide for her family. One young man told her of opportunities in Moscow. She didn’t want to go to Russia, but one day he demanded she go with him, forcing her into a car along with her close friend. She was told to keep quiet as they crossed borders. He sold her in Moscow and when she screamed she was a virgin, they laughed at her, knowing she’d bring better money.

Ella was forced to sleep on the forest floor during winter days and taken to outlying roads by night to prostitute herself. Beatings and drugs were a daily occurrence. Twice she ran away to the police, but they simply brought her back to her traffickers. A third time she and her friend called an aunt working in Russia. Finally, they were able to escape their horror.

She came to our partner’s aftercare home totally broken; sure that she no longer had any future. Day by day, Ella began to experience more hope and healing. She even had the opportunity to stand and testify against her trafficker. Her relationships with family, broken during the tragedy, began to be restored. Ella is now studying social work at the local university and is teaching fellow students about trafficking by sharing her story. She wants to work in the aftercare home in Moldova when she completes her degree.

***The charity of the month encourages an annual donation of approximately $25 for its charities (that seems the most reasonable way to help without hurting yourself too much). If there is a charity you are called to fall in love with and give the most to, that's a blessing. There is no obligation and this blog has no sort of compensation or really affiliation with the charity that it is supporting.

*****Please, give me feedback on what you think of the charities/your experiences/charity suggestions... I'd extremely appreciate your input.

***********For help with porn addiction check out XXXchurch.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

You've Ruined My Life | Craig Answers

“You've Ruined My Life, Professor Craig!!”


Dear Professor Craig,

My name is Adam. I am an atheist, and have been one ever since I can remember. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic church, but could never really say that I held any theistic beliefs with any sincerity. For instance, one time, when I was around eight or nine years old, I asked a nun at my church where I "was" before I was born. She responded: "You were with God." I was still curious, so I asked her how long I was with God, before my being born, and she proclaimed: "For an eternity!" I then asked her why I could not remember "existing with God” for an eternity of time (is an eternity of time even a coherent concept?). She had enough with that question and proceeded to shew me away to play with the other children. Looking back, I am proud of my skeptical disposition.

Let's skip ahead a little bit. I found philosophy and I fell in love with it. I transferred schools in order to obtain my BA. Almost all of the papers I wrote as an undergrad were about atheism or God. I was on a mission to be as rational as I could with regards to my atheistic beliefs. Moreover, I was practically an "evangelical" atheist, proclaiming the good word of rationality! My beliefs were strident at best, and intolerant at worst. I thought I had the "God question" all figured out. It was a settled issue for me: God did not exist. The philosophy of religion was my initial and main draw to philosophy, but I soon found myself wanting to explore philosophy in all its glory. Philosophy, as a whole, was too interesting to just "stop", then move on to some "real job". I decided to apply to an MA program in philosophy at CSULA, and got accepted. Philosophy was something that I took very seriously. So much so, that I drove from NY to CA with no job and no place to live in order to continue my studies. I actually wrote a response to your paper The Absurdity of Life Without God and used it as my writing sample in order to get in to CSULA. I stayed up for months writing and polishing my responses to your claims of the inconsistency of atheism in its response to meaning, value, and purpose in life. I had too. You were telling me my life, as a direct result of my worldview, was worthless in every possible way. Well, as an ambitious philosophy student, I could not simply let you get away this. Your objections to atheism needed answers. And after wrestling with your paper for some time, I actually felt pretty good about the end product and presumed to have "answered" your objections to atheism in a satisfactory way. I could now move on, live my life with the excitement, consistency, and appreciation that I had before reading your essay.

I was wrong.

I should have known better too, since the first time I read that paper of yours, I couldn't sleep for two days. It completely shattered my worldview. Let me mention here that I was a huge fan of the New Atheists, but I always sensed something was askew with them. Something seemed off about them because whenever they were talking about meaning, value, or purpose, they answered in such ways that only a person ignorant of the objections in your paper could respond. In short (too late), your paper never left my mind, even years after I wrote a "response" to it. I knew, deep down, that not only did I not, but could not answer your objections to atheism. What you say the atheistic worldview entails is true. There is no escaping the nihilism as an atheist.

Everything has died for me.

You have ruined my life.

Before I go any further, let me say that you are and always have been my favorite living philosopher. I have seen every debate you have ever recorded and put up on the internet. I watch all your lectures and talks (Closer to Truth, youtube, etc.) I think you are the epitome of what a philosopher should be. You're uber logical, fantastically clear, and "computeresk" with the speed and precision of your responses to objections against your position, particularly the criticisms you respond to in your debates. For a long time now, I have wanted to be a philosopher as you are a philosopher. I want to have an argument posed against my position, and be able to dissect it in the same manner as you do. I can honestly say that I have learned more from reading what you have wrote and watching you on the internet than maybe all of my years in school, formally studying philosophy. I seem to owe you a lot, with regards to my philosophical development, at least.

Now, let's get down to business and why exactly it is that you have ruined my life. After reading your paper on the absurdity of life without God, I soon realized that I had to become a nihilist. To act otherwise would inevitably reduce into an inconsistency. Nihilism is the logical conclusion of an atheistic worldview. Yet, nihilism is unlivable. Christopher Hitchens used to say that you cannot derive any knowledge of what an atheist believes from the fact that she is an atheist. If someone claims to be an atheist, according to Hitchens, you can only conclude that she believes that "God does not exist" or that she "lacks a belief in God" (don't get me started with that distinction!!!) You cannot “go any further” and know if she is a Marxist or a Capitalist, etc. But your paper shows that Hitchens is patently false about this. Atheism necessarily entails nihilistic conclusions about certain questions, particularly those you bring up in your paper about meaning, value, and purpose.

There is a similar misunderstanding that shows how atheists fail to fully comprehend the severity of their own worldview. I feel like I need to say how disappointed I am in the New Atheists, and moreover, the professional philosophers, who do not understand the "moral argument" for God's existence. Why can't they comprehend the ontology of values? Why is this so difficult? It is all too obvious that you are not talking about whether people can act, or know of the, "good" on atheism, but rather that there is no foundation for morality outside of God. Sorry, I just had to rant a little, because it bothers me when philosophers, who should know better, don't comprehend the moral argument. I can only imagine how frustrated you must feel. Further, I hate all the nasty comments you get on YouTube. People don't even understand how well thought out your views are. You have the most coherent worldview I have ever heard anyone describe. Sorry, just wanted to say that you have at least one atheist on your side, sir.

So, this brings me to the problem (finally, sorry)-

Philosophically, I agree with almost everything you say. Not in a “follower” sense, but in that I find what you say either convincingly true or I find I come to the same conclusions that you do with regards to particular ideas that I have reasoned through on my own. With that said, I am still an atheist. How is this possible? How could my favorite philosopher be a Christian, I agree with almost everything he says, yet I am an atheist? Well, it seems that you make an extremely strong case for the rationality of an “abstract” notion of God, but I cannot get myself to go the extra step further and believe any of the world religions (not that I believe this abstract God actually exists either, it just seems to be becoming more and more plausible to me). I definitely cannot get myself to be a Christian. Christianity just does not seem true to me. However, the deeper I dive into philosophy, the more the theistic worldview seems more plausible. The concepts or “language” of mathematics seems to “cry out” as you put it for an explanation, objective moral values seem to be real (but they can't be “real”, if atheism is true), the idea of "existence" nauseates me to no end (just the thought of anything, at all, existing, and especially existing without any reason, frightens me,), and I could go on and on. You know, all the things you speak about in your YouTube videos.

However, even when I don't think about the arguments, and I think about what you and others have said about the “Holy Spirit”, I cannot get myself to believe that this “Holy Spirit” exists and can authenticate my belief in God. As you know, Martin Luther thought the Holy Spirit would guide people in reading the Bible properly, when the Reformation was underway, since there was the concern that without the guidance of the church, people may interpret the bible incorrectly. The Holy Spirit's guiding capabilities seem to be have been proven empirically false though, due to such a wide variety of conflicting beliefs all being derived from the Bible. Now I know that the diversity of beliefs doesn't necessarily allow for the conclusion that all of the religious beliefs or experiences are false, that there aren't at least some beliefs or experiences that are true, and therefore the Holy Spirit does not exist. However, this disagreement does cause pause in me, and it makes the situation suspect enough to where I cannot seemingly distinguish between an authentic experience with the Holy Spirit or my being deluded. There does not seem to be anything here to help me out of the nihilistic rut. Lately though, I have been questioning why I even value “rationality”, or what it even means to “value” rationality on an atheistic worldview. That's another topic though, sorry.

Let me wrap this ramble up. I am now stuck in a nihilistic-atheistic world that I hate. Agnosticism is not even a coherent position to me, with regards to a Perfect Being, since I believe that the greatest conceivable being could give me knowledge of its existence, if it wanted to. Theism is a dream come true. The world would make sense, the existential mysteries that haunt me would be solved, life would be livable. It is atheism, however, which seems to be true, yet I do not want to live like this. I have become depressed to no end. I have been in a nihilistic rut for years now. I have become utterly recluse. Yet, even with all this, I cannot come to believe in God. What would YOU suggest I do? This letter is as sincere as it gets. You may be my last hope. Since I agree with you on so much, I was hoping you would have the answer to this. I know the “answer” is Christianity, but as I said, I cannot get myself to believe its truth. I am an atheist who hates atheism. I want there to be a God more than anything, yet I cannot get myself to believe in one. I cannot seem to give an adequate answer to Camus's question: “Is life worth living?”

A feel like a philosopher of your caliber is the only person I have left to turn to. A psychologist wouldn't get my concerns, at least I don't think think they would. I need the clarity and reasonableness of a philosopher. Please, help.

Your biggest atheist fan,


PS- Do me one favor? Even if you never have time to respond. Please, do not debate Lawrence Krauss anymore. As with most people not trained in philosophy, it is not even an argument in any sort of philosophical sense. He is a shouting bag of hot air with irrelevant criticisms and gross misunderstandings of the arguments. He does not deserve to be the face for atheism, we both know this. But maybe this is your plan. :)

Dr. Craig responds:

Adam, it is so encouraging to get a letter like yours! You have seen through the fog of often hateful rhetoric to discern the real issues. Your story reminds me so much of C. S. Lewis, who, as a scientific naturalist, found everything that he thought was real to be meaningless and unfulfilling, and everything he loved, such as myth, legend, and fantasy, to be imaginary and unreal. Like you, Lewis approached Christ gradually, shedding first his naturalism and then later his scepticism about Jesus of Nazareth. Lewis finally broke the bonds of the naturalism that had bound him, discovering in Christ the “true myth,” the fusion of rationality and imagination. Once you free yourself of your atheism, you’ll find the next step to Christian theism a relatively short one.

You mention your scepticism about Luther’s belief that the Holy Spirit “would guide people in reading the Bible properly,” for “The Holy Spirit's guiding capabilities seem to be have been proven empirically false. . . , due to such a wide variety of conflicting beliefs all being derived from the Bible.” Now I don’t subscribe to the belief you attribute to Luther; nevertheless, the argument you offer against it does not strike me as a good one. In order to prevent a plethora of divergent interpretations, what would be required is, not just that Holy Spirit would guide people into the truth, but that Holy Spirit would intervene to prevent aberrant interpretations of the Bible as well, and Luther never claimed that He does that. If Luther is right, one would expect to find people adhering to a correct interpretation and others departing from the true way and propounding deviant interpretations, which is exactly what we do find. Luther’s view would be falsified only if everyone departed from the truth.

I think that what the Holy Spirit does is to furnish believers with a fundamental assurance of their being properly related to God and unbelievers a conviction of their not being properly related to God but of being in need of His forgiveness and moral cleansing. While this entails the truth of certain core Christian claims, it does not guarantee proper interpretation of biblical passages. That is instead achieved through the use of proper hermeneutical techniques of literary interpretation.

I think you already discern the weakness of your objection, for you say, “I know that the diversity of beliefs doesn't necessarily allow for the conclusion that all of the religious beliefs or experiences are false, that there aren't at least some beliefs or experiences that are true, and therefore the Holy Spirit does not exist.” Right; you need to be open to the convicting witness of the Spirit in your life that you need God’s forgiveness and cleansing for your moral failures. Anyone who thinks hard about the moral argument should realize that if objective moral values and duties do exist, he falls desperately short of the moral good and so fails to discharge his moral duties and is thus in need of forgiveness and redemption. Indeed, I think probably no one comes to faith in Christ apart from a conviction of his guilt and need of moral renovation.

You have good things to say about the theistic arguments I’ve defended; but you do not mention my equally rigorous work, flowing out of my doctoral studies under Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich, on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. I was astonished to discover as a result of my study that the main facts undergirding the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection are actually agreed upon by the majority of historical Jesus scholars today, not just conservative scholars but the broad mainstream of New Testament scholars, including a good number of Jewish scholars, who teach at secular universities and non-evangelical divinity schools. So I think faith in Jesus is historically quite well-founded.

So now we come to the million dollar question: “What would YOU suggest I do?” I take this question very seriously. So here’s what I suggest you do:

1. Read C. S. Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy. I think you will resonate with Lewis’ struggle, both to free himself of atheism and then of his scepticism about Christian faith.

2. Seek experiences that put you in touch with the transcendent. You need to escape the cloying bonds of naturalism by catching glimpses of a transcendent reality beyond the material world. This will help to prepare your heart for belief in God. So open yourself to experiences of sublime beauty. Listen to Schumann’s Träumerei, to Dvorak’s New World Symphony, to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and so on. And when I say “listen,” I don’t mean to have it playing in the background while you go about your tasks. I mean to set all else aside for an allotted time, close your eyes, and just focus on listening to the music. Watch a video of ballroom champions Jonathan Crossley and Lyn Marriner performing a waltz or slow foxtrot. Drink in the stunning beauty of their performance. Watch a sunrise or sunset over a beautiful landscape or take in the beauty of pristine nature. Such beauty can sometimes produce an almost painful ache in us because of our inability to take it all in.

3. Read the Gospels about the life of Jesus. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll find the story of his life gripping. Jesus is a tremendously attractive person in the wisdom of his teaching, in his character, and in the authenticity of his life.

4. Look into the historical credibility of the personal claims and resurrection of Jesus. Read, e.g., the relevant chapters in Reasonable Faith (Crossway, 2008). Read my debates with sceptical New Testament critics like John Dominic Crossan (Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, ed. Paul Copan [Baker, 1998] or Gerd Lüdemann (The Resurrection: Fact or Figment? ed. Paul Copan [Inter-Varsity, 2000] and ask which way the evidence points.

5. Embark on a spiritual experiment. Begin to pray daily. Attend a church where the Gospel is faithfully preached and you can be with Christians to get to know them. You’ll find these people to be unlike ordinary people you meet, more reflective, more compassionate, more focused on spiritual things.

6. Finally, get a copy of Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven.” The person it describes is you, Adam! “With unhurrying chase, and unperturbèd pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy,” He is after you and will continue His pursuit until you recognize in Him all that you are longing for.

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