Tag Archive: Skepticism

Prayer and Reading the Bible: The One Method That Always Works in Evangelizing Atheists

ra torreyIn recent weeks, the fine, upstanding Christians over on Baptist Board have been discussing my past and whether I was ever a “real” Christian. If you have not taken the time to read their pontifications, please do so. And after doing so, please let me know who in the heaven they are talking about!

One forum participant suggested the following from R.A. Torrey’s book (Torrey worked with D.L. Moody in the nineteenth century), How to Work for Christ,  for reaching people such as myself. I will leave it you the reader to pontificate on its value. Enjoy!

Having asked the man these preliminary questions, proceed at once to show him how to believe. I have found no passage in the Bible equal to John 7:17 in dealing with an honest skeptic:

“If any man WILL DO HIS WILL, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

It shows the way out of skepticism to faith, and has been used of God to the salvation of countless skeptics and infidels. You can say to the skeptic, “Now Jesus Christ makes a fair proposition. He does not ask you to believe without evidence, bet He asks you to do a thing that your own conscience approves, and promises that if you do it, you will come out of skepticism into knowledge. What Jesus asks in this verse, is that you will to do God’s will; that is, that you surrender your will to God. Will you do it?”

When this point has been settled, next say to him, “Will you make an honest search to find out what the will of God is, that you may do it?” When this point has been settled, ask the man, “Do you believe that God answers prayer?” Very likely the skeptic will reply that he does not. You can say to him, “Well, I know that He does, but of course I don’t expect you to accept my opinion, but here is a possible clue to knowledge. Now the method of modern science is to follow out any possible clue to see what there is in it. You have given me a promise to make an  honest search to find the will of God, and here is a possible clue, and if your promise was honest,you will follow it. Will you pray this prayer?

‘O God, show me whether Jesus is thy Son or not; and if you show me that He is, I promise to accept Him as my Savior and confess Him as such before the world.'”

It is well to have him make his promise definite by putting it down in black and white. After this is done, show him still another step. Take him to John 20:31:

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Here we are told that the Gospel of John was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Tell him, “Now this Gospel is given for this purpose, to show that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Will you take this Gospel and read it, honestly and carefully?” Very likely he will say, “I have read it often before.” You can say, “I want you to read it in a new way. Will you read it this way? Read a few verses at a time, and each time before you read, will you ask God to  give you light on the passage that you are about to read, and promise that if He does, you will follow as much as you see to be true. Now when you have read the Gospel through, come back to me and tell me the result.” I would again carefully go over all the points as to what he was to do.

….

This method of treatment if it is honestly followed by the skeptic will never fail.

Local Fundamentalist Jack Fetter Objects to My Characterization of the Ark Encounter

ark encounter

The July 31, 2016 edition of the Defiance Crescent-News featured a Letter to the Editor by local Fundamentalist Jack Fetter objecting to my recent letter about Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter. You can read my letter here. Several weeks prior to his Letter to the Editor, Fetter was featured in a puff piece extolling the wonders of Ham’s latest monument to human ignorance — the Ark Encounter. Fetter is quoted as saying (article behind Crescent-News paywall):

They (Answers in Genesis) want people to experience the most authentic reconstruction of Noah’s Ark, with ‘authentic’ being the key word. They really want people to see what life was like in Noah’s day, to get answers about the great flood and to learn that the one door on the ark represents the one and only way to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ. God hates sin, and it was at this point in history that mankind had become so rebellious, that God needed to start over again.

God is a forgiving God, but at the end, there will be judgment. We’re all going to face the Lord one day, and this project is a great reminder of what God did by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to die for the sins of mankind. They pray this will be a life-changing experience where many will desire to have a personal relationship with Christ and serve Him.

Crescent-News religion writer, Tim McDonough, made no attempt to ask Fetter — a man who spent 42 years working for Youth for Christ — hard questions about his assertions or worldview. You know, questions about the absurdity of building a monument to events that never took place or questions about how geology, archeology, cosmology, and biology thoroughly discredit claims of a universal flood 4,000 or so years ago. Ham’s and Fetter’s irrational Fundamentalist interpretations of Genesis are littered with absurdities, yet the Crescent-News writer allowed their claims to go unchallenged. At the very least, McDonough should have interviewed any of a number local mainline pastors/priests, academics, or scientists who would have presented opposition to Fetter’s literalism. I realize that McDonough’s article was on the Friday religion page, but, my God, sir, think of the children! Surely, poking the Fundamentalist bear a bit won’t cause people to cancel their newspaper subscriptions. But then, maybe it would. Having spent the past eight years drawing the ire and hatred of local Bible-thumpers, I suspect a religious news article challenging the veracity of the flood myth would result in numerous locals throwing conniption fits.

Sunday’s paper — letters to the editor are published on Wednesdays and Sundays — featured the following from Fetter (behind Crescent-News paywall):

A recent letter to the editor on July 20 entitled, “Creation museum draws questions” had an absolute opposite effect on my life. The museum is an awesome experience that answers and defends the Word of God.

In this life when we make decisions there are ultimately two starting points on what we believe. Either we start with God’s Word or you start with man’s word and human reasoning. On the basis of these two starting points we build either a biblical worldview or man’s worldview belief.

Bruce Gerencser, the gentleman from Ney, was critical of both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter located in northern Kentucky. As stated by him, the Bible is full of myths. Creationism is a lie and both the Creation Museum and Ark are monuments to ignorance. This is a perfect example of man’s word/human reasoning worldview vs. the biblical worldview.

Another comment was that evangelicals bore easily and few return once they tour the Creation Museum and Ark.

First of all, all Christian growth is not boring. The most purposeful life both here and in eternity is to love and serve Jesus Christ. I have visited the Creation Museum over 30 times and have found the museum to be a treasure chest of biblical truths that will help me deepen and defend my faith. Besides the museum my biggest resource is the huge amount of creation material that can be taken home to study.

People return because even with a two-day pass it can’t be covered, especially if you do the shows, workshops,, planetarium, petting zoo, etc. There’s so much to do that I don’t have the space to share. Most repeaters bring guests and then the guests bring new people to experience the museum. This is the reason revenues have finished in the black every year at the Creation Museum.

It was indicated the Ark was built on speculation. Genesis 6:15 states the exact dimensions of the Ark and that is exactly the measurements of the Ark Encounter. It was also mentioned that it would be doubtful if the Ark would safely float. That is a non-issue because God promised there would never be another judgment by a flood. The rainbow is that reminder. However, there will be another judgment from God in the form of fire.

Jack Fetter

rural Grover Hill

Fetter’s letter is typical of those written in response to my attacks on Evangelical Christianity, Bible literalism, and scientific ignorance. You can read all of them here.  Fetter, now in his seventies, will likely die believing that the words of the Christian Bible are literally the words of God. Having invested his life in promoting Biblical literalism and scientific ignorance, Fetter has traveled too far to turn back now. Convinced that Ken Ham’s wood boat (along with the Creation Museum) will be used by God to save the lost and rebuke the wicked, Fetter has traveled over thirty times to Kentucky to view the “wonders” found within Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. While Fetter is free to spend his remaining years of life amongst the wonders of bronze age sheepherders, I plan to spend my time making sure that another generation of American children and young adults are not intellectually crippled by Bible nonsense.

Fetter is right about one thing: the difference between him and me is one of clashing worldviews. While I would, if given the opportunity, challenge the idea that Christianity and the Bible are something other than human words and beliefs, I readily admit that the worldviews of Jack Fetter and Bruce Gerencser are poles apart. Fetter begins with faith, believing with great certainty that the Bible is a supernatural book, with a supernatural message, written by a supernatural God. Its words are inerrant, infallible, and true. I, on the other hand, begin with skepticism and reason, both of which insurmountably challenge Fetter’s system of belief. While I am certain Fetter is a decent human being, I certainly don’t want to see local school children exposed to creationism or its gussied-up sister, intelligent design. Both are theological presuppositionalist dogma masquerading as evidence-based science. If Fundamentalists such as Fetter want public school children taught creationist myths, they should be covered in comparative or world religion classes. Doing so would show students that Fetter’s flood/ark myth is just one of many that can be found among earth’s religions. Of course, Fetter and Ham want nothing of the kind. They know that exposing students to a broad spectrum of mythical religious beliefs will destroy Evangelical Christianity and its false, one-true-religion narrative. Study one religion, and you’ll be hooked for life. Study two religions, and you’re done in an hour, atheists, agnostics, and skeptics say. Rational inquiry and intellectual freedom have always been the enemy of faith.

Fetter and I are on opposing fields of battle. Fetter believes that faith in God and the teachings of the Bible will win the day, whereas I believe that skepticism and reason will one day conquer religious ignorance. Our battle is far from over, but, in time intellectual inquiry and freedom will defeat religious certainty and ignorance. I am hopeful that one day history will record that Ark Encounter and whatever other Biblical monuments Ham might erect are considered relics from a day when people naïvely believed the Christian God ruled the universe. The way forward is paved by reason, rationality, skepticism, and scientific inquiry. To reach such a place, those of us who value these things must be willing to wage war against the Jack Fetters and Ken Hams of the world. The future of the human race hangs in the balance (most anti-climate change, anti-global warming thinking is driven by religious belief). We must never waver in our defense of open, rational inquiry. Our enemy is tiring. In another generation/century or two the answer to the question, Is God Dead? will be met with a resounding reply of Yes! Until that day, we must continue to push back every attempt by Fundamentalists to bow the peoples of earth to their worldview.

What I Found When I Left the Box

Man hiding in box

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled The Danger of Being In a Box and Why It All Makes Sense When You Are in a Box.  A commenter on Reddit asked if I would elaborate on this part:

“But is wasn’t. My mind was filled with thoughts of all the wonders I found outside the box. Things that those in my box said were bad for me; things that they were sure would ruin me. They told me that the box was all I needed. They feared I was becoming a wanderlust.

And they were right. I wandered once again outside the box, and just like before I fell down the slope of the slippery hill. This happened to me many times before I finally gave up and stayed at the bottom of the hill. When I did this,  the box I had lived in for almost 50 years no longer large enough for me. For the first time, the things I had found in the box seemed odd, peculiar, and contradictory.”

Every time I left the box I found new and wondrous things, things I had never heard about before, things I had never experienced. The box I was in for five decades was a box  whose dimensions were clearly defined. There was no guessing about the length, width, or depth of the box. Over time, the box had to be replaced. Those outside the box constantly battered the box with bats, bricks, and rocks. Sometimes, these attacks would cause gaping holes in the box and it became necessary to replace the box.

The new box was not like the old box at all. The dimensions were different and it held fewer people. Everyone in the box pretended that the box was just like the old box. An old-fashioned box, we were told. We knew the box was not like the old one, but giving the appearance that the new box was the same as the old box was more important that coming to grips with the reality that the box was different. The box keeper was adamant. He said our box was just like the first box, that the box had stood strong for 2000 years.

On one of my trips outside of the box, I found out that the box keeper wasn’t telling the truth. He was trying to preserve something that never existed. Perhaps he really didn’t know since he had never been outside the box.  I found out the box manual had errors and contradictions. People outside the box questioned whether the box manual was the correct manual. For a time, fear plagued me every time I went outside the box. I realized if the box manual wasn’t true, then everything I believed about the box was wrong. I thought, I am smart guy. How could I have been deceived for almost 50 years? Surely ALL these people in the box can’t be wrong?

As I strayed farther and farther away from the box, though, I found that there were all kinds of boxes. Every group of people had its own box, — some were religions, some were political, some were social, and some were economic boxes. I always knew there were other boxes, but I considered all other boxes but the one I was in to be false boxes.

Those of us in the box always mocked those in the atheist box. None of us actually knew an atheist, nor had we ever read a book written by an atheist, but Dr. I-Have-The-Truth told us he knew all there was to know about the atheist box and he was certain the atheist box was a false box with no bottom that led straight to hell. He told us many horrible things about the atheist box. I was glad I was not one of THOSE kinds of box dwellers.

Imagine my surprise to find out that the atheist box was nothing like Dr. I-Have-The-Truth said it was. In fact, I found out there was quite a bit of diversity in the atheist box. They argued back and forth with each other, but once they were done arguing they all went to the bar and were still friends. I had never seen such interaction before. In my box, when arguments broke out they usually ended  with one party calling  the other party not-a-true box dweller. Some of them even went so far as to leave the box and, just a few feet away, build another box. They said they were a new and DIFFERENT box, but everyone knew that the only thing different was the location of the box.

I found that I liked the atheist box. Those in the atheist box encouraged me to be skeptical of the every box. I had never heard this before. In the box I was from, we were told to never question the box and certainly to never question or doubt the box manual. The box keeper warned us that doubt led many a box dweller outside of the box never to return. We wondered, did they end up being recycled?

This new-found freedom to question and to be skeptical was quite liberating. It also caused a good bit of conflict for me. People from the box I had left were questioning whether I was ever a “real” box dweller. They said, Yes he was in the box but he never really believed the box manual. They called me a deceiver. Some even thought I was deluded. The box keeper used me as an illustration of what happens when a person becomes skeptical and asks questions

For a time, my wanderlust, while liberating, caused me a great deal of mental conflict. There seemed to be a constant tug and pull. I felt as if  I were going to be pulled apart. I heard about a man who specialized in helping people who left boxes similar to the one I was in. So I went to see him and I knew immediately that he could help with the tug and pull that was trying to tear me apart.

Over time, I began to see how the box, the box keeper, and the box manual had taken over my life to such a degree that I lost any concept of who I was. Every time I saw the specialist I reclaimed some of the self that I had lost. As this happened, I began to deal with the questions I had about the box and the box manual.

I am not sure when the moment was, but I do remember coming to a place where I felt completely free. I felt “born again.” I thought, I am a “born again” atheist. I no longer felt any pull to return to the box. Of course those in the box said “See what happens when you stay outside the box for a long time?”

Seven years have gone by since I found myself at the bottom of the slippery hill. It is hard to believe — seven years. People in the atheist box, the box I now call home told me that things would be better with time. They encouraged me to read and study. They told me “go where the data, the evidence leads you.”

Over time, I learned that the atheist box, and for that matter no box, is perfect. In every box there are arrogant, nasty, vindictive box dwellers. No box is perfect, but some boxes are definitely better than others. That’s the greatest wonder of all…I now have the  ability to freely choose the box (es) I want to be in.

I guess the best thing to say is this…I no longer feel boxed in.

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