So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Consider the following...

On the heels of a recent comment I made to someone at church, I conducted a little research project. I went to the "major" bookstores of several world religions, on kinda a whim. This is what I found when I looked up apologetics in an online bookstore from:

The Mormons

The Jehovahs' Witnesses

The Scientologists

Christian Scientists

(Notice the interesting Buddhist Apologetic books! I also looked here)

Hindus (I also tried here and here and here...again, basically it's all Christian stuff!)

Islam (hmmm..interesting TWO titles...)

and finally Christianity. (813 hits? That's it?)

Now, why does anyone think that Christians are the only people aggressively defending their faith and religious beliefs?

Uh, maybe because Christianity is the only world religion aggressively attacked by skeptics. No other religion seems to try to mount a defense against hordes of rational attacks against the credibility of their religious book or the reasonability of every and all tenets of their faith.

Why do you think that is?

Here's some options:

1. Christians are the only people who are cocky and making claims to know things about origins, history, physical science, ultimate truth, etc. (But wait...Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, and especially Scientologists make large, if not excessive, clams in the same area! What gives?)

2. Christianity is more abbrassive that other world religions and people are retaliating against all it's evils, where as nobody hates all the other religions of love. (What, like Islam? Is that why thousands of people of other faiths get killed in moslem nations every year? History also records the story of the river of blood created by the OTHER war machine; Islam!)

3. Christians have some unneccesary need to "defend themselves" against perceived attacks that aren't really there. (we're making all this up.)

4. Christians try to force their religion on other people, therefore people want to attack them. (Again, Islam converts by the sword to this very day! Why are the skeptics not running after the Moslems, trying to rationally beat the faith out of their doubters?)

5. Christians constantly trumpet idiotic ideas. I mean, if God is so all good and all powerful, why do so many bad things happen? (Why don't moslems, or buddhists, or hindus get tossed these questions all the time? Hmmm?)

6. Western thought is dominated by Judeo-Christian influence and seeing that modernity/postmodernity came out of Judeo-Christian thought, it only stands to reason that the modernists/postmodernists would attack their philosophical grand-parents. (Hmmm, this one has some truth to it...)

7. Christianity is the only religious system that even offers answers to any hard questions beyond the "No man can know the paths of Karma!" or "who are you to question the most holy Allah?" sort of answers. Attacking Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or anything else just isn't any fun because they refuse to 'play ball'. (I am sure all the skeptics have nothing better to do with their time...)

8. Christ really existed, what he said about himself and ultimate reality was true, and because the truth of that historical book about a historical person carries severe moral implications, it's best to destroy/attack/surpress the historical/rational credibility of said book so that one can pursue the immoral implications of one's own desires or cater to one's own desire for self-deification by embracing ones own home-made religious system.

Hmmm. I kinda lean toward the 8th point, but I guess that goes without saying. It is a definite curiosity though how no other world religion is worried about attempting to give a rational defense of their religious system. Any ideas from my esteemed readership?

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Blogger Craver VII said...

Are Scientologists and Christian Science the same?

lol... the word verification came up as: devlxl
(church lady's voice) Hmmm, could that be devil extra large?

10:00 AM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Nope. Scientology is the fruits of Lafyette Ron Hubbard and Christian Science is the furits of Mary Baker Eddy.

Two totally different crack fiends.

10:45 AM

Blogger Colin said...

Here are a couple of alternative explanations for you to consider.
1) Islam/Buddhism and other eastern religions are found in Islamic/Buddhist/etc countries where the occupants are 100% of that faith/religion. With a religious monopoly there is no need to ‘defend’ the status quo.
2) The countries in the west are primarily multicultural countries with residents who are predominately Christian – a result of the expansion of the British Empire. Such multicultural countries, including Canada, the United States, UK and Australia, have a heightened awareness of the differences and contrasts between other religious groups as a result of the constant ‘rubbing of shoulders’. Since Christianity is in the majority it would go to reason that there would be more material to defend the position of Christianity.
3) These countries of the west are also the richest countries in the world. As a result there is affluence in education, philosophy and theology.
4) Since these Judeo Christian countries of the west are the richest, there is a huge market in selling Christian targeted books of all kinds. Books are not published unless the publisher believes that there is money to be made. It is simple as that. Publishers do not print books out of the goodness of their heart or out of higher principles of merit. If apologetic texts can be sold and writers and publishers can profit from the selling of these books then these books will be commissioned. It is very simple economics. If there is (potential) demand supply is created to match.
5) Further, your ‘research’ fails to take into account two very important facets:
a. Apologetics may not be the colloquial term used in other religions. Just because you understand and use this word as part of your Christian newspeak doesn’t mean that every religion uses the same terminology
b. English is not the language of choice for many of these eastern religions that you searched. I suspect that you will find much better results if you did a search in Sanskrit or Arabic.
6) Many of the older eastern religions have evolved and adapted to maintain their relevancy even as the world of science has eroded the edges of mysticism. Some have called this evolution a secularization of religion. In Indian culture, Hinduism is understood as a cultural identity and an integral component of a persons’ ethos (pardon the anachronism). These religions do not feel the need to defend their beliefs and practices nor do they feel the need to habitually ignore empirical evidence (unlike some fundagelicals). Sure there are extremists and fundamentalists of all these religions, but they are by far in the minority.
7) There is a subtle premise in your observation that does have merit. That premise is that Christianity, especially the evangelical right, feels threatened by the advances of science and pluralism and therefore need to defend their position.

I have two further ancillary thoughts:
A) As the globe becomes smaller and smaller, all religions must evolve and adapt in order to survive and live shoulder to shoulder with others of different religious traditions. Therefore you have two options: a) beat the other religions down with a stick to prove the superiority of your particular religion or b) evolve your religion to learn such that mutual coexistence is possible, respected and valued.

Unfortunately, I think it is highly unlikely that Christianity or Islam or any religion will ever hold the monopoly on this planet. So if you hold option a) then you are guaranteeing that our species will always be at the throat of each other trying to prove we are right and they are wrong. In fact, name one war in the last 100 years that was not _fueled_ by religion. (not started – fueled). I don’t think you will be able to. Therefore option a) leaves you with a very fucked up world and a world where the only end game is belittle, demoralize, blow up, and destroy, whether physically, emotionally or psychologically, anyone who does not agree with your particular religion (and sect of religion).

B) Secondly, I want to remind you that you are of the religion you are because of the environment you grew up in. If you had grown up in India you would most likely be Hindu. If you had grown up in Lebanon you would be Muslim. If you had been brought up in India, you'd be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in Denmark in the time of the Vikings you would likely believe in Wotan and Thor. Likewise if you had grown up in Central Africa you'd believe in the great Juju of the sea.

You have a hard proposition when you claim to be the only correct religion (and the only correct sect of your religion, I might add). What if you are wrong? What if you are wrong about the great Juju under the sea?

Anyway, I’ve prattled on long enough. I will close by answering the question you posed directly: Why are no other world religions worried about attempting to have a rational defense of its religious system. There are two reasons. First, many religions do not see a difference between culture and religion – they are fused and inseparable. This is why there are many atheist Jews who still attend temple and observe the feasts. These Jews do not observe their religion out of a sense of duty or believe but because it is part of their identity and a part of their culture. Therefore there is no reason to rationally defend their religion because it is not about truth but about identity.

Secondly, many religions see themselves as a state of being and are content to live with the apparent contradiction of coexistence of other religions. Either you are Hindu or you are not. There is no need to convert you if you are not.


9:45 PM

Blogger Craver VII said...

If I may borrow armchair's humorous jab, I think they're still all just a bunch of "crack heads."

Whatever their language or culture, or whatever... it only adds up to a sorry bunch of excuses that cannot justify rejecting the Christ--the only one who is absolutely true.

10:25 AM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...



Well Colin, (Hendry or Bendell?) I thought you had gone the way of the Buffalo...and then you show up with a flaming loincloth! Wowzer!

Nice juicy comment! Lots of stuff to chew on. Lots of subtle insulting and rhetorical needling too Colin; I always appreciate the alacrity with which you wield your tongue. You should honestly get into politics or religion; either way you could make a killing.

You definitely had some excellent points too:

1. Your first point is pretty good, and I definitely would agree that in a country like India or Japan, where the religious pot is essentially homogenous, there are no questions because nobody really challenges the status quo.

2. Your second point is good too. It's true that in a multicultural society, there is more of an understanding of religious pluralism since the market, the mall and the Mediclinic are all a mix of multicultural men and women. From what I know from missionary friends, places with religious uniformity often assume that they are the global "norm".

3. The proliferation of education definitely does leave skeptics more time and rhetorical tools with which to attack religion, and Christianity in general.

4. My search was most certainly hampered by linguistic limitations; I was thinking of that as I put it up. I certainly agree that without knowledge of other foreign tongues, it is most CERTAINLY difficult to speak with certain. I don't think I have spoken definitively though, have I?

5. I also agree when you said "Many of the older eastern religions have evolved and adapted to maintain their relevancy even as the world of science has eroded the edges of mysticism." Good point.


I'm most certainly disappointed by the following:

1. You make blanket statements like "These religions do not feel the need to defend their beliefs and practices nor do they feel the need to habitually ignore empirical evidence (unlike some fundagelicals)."

What's a fundagelical?

A Christian who takes a literal reading of Genesis and understands that it can mean nothing but what it appears to mean: The earth was created 6,000 and some odd years ago in 7, 24 hour days?

Or people who think that the Bible is true in everything its says, even when it makes exclusive and elitist truth claims?

Or people who think that the Bible should be allowed to make claims for itself regarding it's own truthfulness and divinity?

I'm just not sure what constitutes a "fundagelical"

Also, what is the empirical evidence that is constantly being ignored? The Christians that I know and associate myself with run from nothing and don't really have struggles with ANY empirical evidence. I'm thinking that you're thinking of something different than I am, so I suspect some clarification is needed.

We should probably get on the same page here. I'm guessing you're thinking about creation/evolution or something, but I may be wrong.

2. I enjoyed your wonderful "only two possible options" comment when you said

"Therefore you have two options: a) beat the other religions down with a stick to prove the superiority of your particular religion or b) evolve your religion to learn such that mutual coexistence is possible, respected and valued."

There's a third option, my friend.

c) Uphold the truth of the scripture, as proclaimed from the pulpit and exemplified but a missional congregation, living the truth in love. No sticks involved, no beating down. Just orthodoxy and orthopraxi. (Call me crazy, but your two options sound like you don’t hold to any real truth existing. If I actually believe that the Bible is true, then I’m going to lift it up and profess it. If God blesses the preaching of his word and millions of people from all other faiths are granted grace to understand the truth regarding man, creation, God and ultimate reality, then I’ll give him glory. If not, that doesn’t change the truth of the scripture.)

You, yourself admit that "Sure there are extremists and fundamentalists of all these religions, but they are by far in the minority."

I'm glad you recognize the extremists and fundamentalists (in the negative sense of that word, not the true historical sense) are not the norm.

3. I honestly laughed at the “all war is because of religion” point. That’s honestly something that I enjoy, because I would agree with you ALMOST. I’d say that dropping the dichotomy between “started” and “fueled” isn’t really that necessary. What is being insinuated is that without religion, there wouldn’t be war.

I would change one thing, and I won’t beat around the bush. You’ll HATE this, but whatever. If the Bible is true (regardless of what I think of it…we’ll skip the 4 day debate on that), it makes it fairly clear that mankind kills and lusts for power out of sin. Pagan and idolatrous religions are simply mankind’s efforts at the suppression God’s revelation of himself and his moral law. Romans 1:18-22 makes that case clearly; all men either embrace the truth of the Lord or reject it and make up their own religious systems.

Those religious systems are always hammering against both God’s truth and God’s people, and seeing that all men are religious, every war in the history of the world has been “fueled by religion”, as you said. (even atheism is a system of religious understanding; instead of God being “god” , man and his reason are “god”). Thing is, when people say “all war is caused by religion”, they think they’re saying something deep and shocking. In reality, that’s like saying “water is wet”…Oh. Thanks for coming out.

Every man is religious and therefore every war has a religious aspect to it

Let’s be clear.

Wars exist because of sin.

Pagan religions exist because of sin.

Pagans hate the Lord and buck against his authority and moral law, and the most aggressive way to do that is to the kill his people…or at least those that seem to remind you of him the most. (Like the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda.)

Good news though. This religiously fueled war will not last forever. The bible talks about how in the end, there will be a war to end all wars as all men of the world take their stand against the Jews and the Messiah, and Messiah basically gives them what’s coming.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about ME taking up guns in his name. No sir. I DO understand that Jesus will deal out wrath himself. He’ll take care of all those who hate him and seek to kill his people. The Lord will eventually stand up for himself.

4. And when you said “I want to remind you that you are of the religion you are because of the environment you grew up in”, I’d simply say “oh”. Now I’d agree that there are more Moslems in countries ruled by Islam, and there are more Buddhists in countries ruled by Buddhism, but that doesn’t dictate who believes in Christ anymore than the ski conditions at Whistler.

I’m curious as to how you can be making claims about eternal things, like who God will grant the grace to come to faith? You know that the Lord has a BIG throne, but he’s a BIG person and there’s not really room on that throne for two?

I’ve met Christians who are natives of every country. I’ve met Chinese folks who were part of the underground church way back in the day that came to faith by finding pieces of the scripture that Chinese soldiers used to wipe their bums. They’d find them, clean them off and read what they could of the book of Romans.

I’ve met Iraqis who got Bibles that were smuggled into the country in cadavers, and escaped Iraqi while it was still under Hussein’s reign by packing themselves in shipping carts and being shipped to France, and upon getting to France they found the one Christian.

I’ve met an American who was raised in France, traveled to India when he was in College and was given the gospel by a missionary at a coffee shop in Calcutta, whose name he cannot remember for the life of him.

I’ve met a man who became a Christian in a Thai prison because a missionary was tossed in the cell next to him and gave him the gospel through the wall.

I could go on and on.

The bottom line is God decides who comes to faith in him.

Ephesians 1:3-6 says,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

God knew, before he made the earth or anything, who would be granted the blessing of knowing him. So geography has absolutely nothing to do with it…sorry fella. God disagrees with you, and I’m akin to side with God on matters of…well, matters of anything. He’s simply right and we’re both wrong whenever we disagree with him.

5. And you’re statement when you said “You have a hard proposition when you claim to be the only correct religion (and the only correct sect of your religion, I might add). What if you are wrong? What if you are wrong about the great Juju under the sea?” is super true.

Good thing I’m not claiming to be the right religion. That would be crazy. I claim to believe the teachings that God has made known about himself. That’s a lot more reasonable.

I honestly entertain doubts about Christianity lots…but here’s where you and I are different:

I’ve sorted through (well, God’s actually LEAD my through) the Scriptures and my epistemology to the point where I approach the Bible from a position of foundational trust, not foundational doubt.

If there’s truth out there, find it. One thing I didn’t mention in my previous post is that in high school, and all through my first tour of duty at Briercrest, I was sorting through that question. I didn’t trumpet that idea to everyone, seeing as it was a person struggle, but I took a serious look at everything else out there, and I promised my teacher I wouldn’t formulate a position for several years.

So I’m fairly confident in my understandings, and I’m not scared of questions, but seeing that we’re working different foundations, you most likely simply will not find my answers suitable or pacifying. You’re most likely looking for answers that meet your own criteria, and God provides answers that meet his criteria, not ours. Again, that’s the truth as I see it, so that’s what you get.

I’ll maybe tackle your closing by saying that other world religions possibly don’t concern themselves with logical defense because they’re not built on logical propositions in the first place. They separate logic and reason from faith, where as Christianity attempts to build faith upon logical and reasonable grounds. That’s why Paul can write to Timothy and say things like:

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” – 2 Timothy 1:12.

Paul is “peitho” regarding the savior and his status regarding the day of the Lord; He has been rationally persuaded of it. He’s considered propositions and has found them solid; worthy of trust.

I’ve had talks with hundreds of Mormons, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists and everyone else. Every last one of them has either run or changed the subject when we got to the REAL tough questions and I’ve given them the gears and demanded the same answers that they’ve demanded of me. I always laugh how I can hammer through the tough questions with some form of cognitive response that AT LEAST makes sense within the boundaries of a Christian worldview, and they cannot seem to give a serious defense of either their worldviews (which always end up stealing parts of the Christian worldview), or their answers to the tough questions.

That’s because their faith systems have defined faith as “believing without seeing” where as Christians define faith as “trusting God’s word”.

They don’t have the same rational, logical foundations to their systems of understanding because those rational systems don’t exist to be possessed in the first place.

I’ll also be the first to admit that many “Christians” are exactly like the people whom I’ve described; cognitively empty shells who don’t have a clue. Their falling short of Christ and his word don’t negate it though. That would be silly to suggest; a bad driver doesn’t make a car slower, he just may not know how to extract all the performance out of his car that it’s capable of.

That’s my few dollars worth.

2:03 PM

Blogger Colin said...

hey, I just wanted to apologize for the sharp tone and for the uncalled for needling. Please forgive my poor decorum.

You are right on one thing - I do approach the bible from doubt and therefore can't agree with most of your conclusions.

One final comment: how fair do you think you were to those other religions when you were exploring them from the confines of briercrest?

10:13 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Colin, thank you for your apology and I definitely forgive any poor decorum or veiled insults. I'm also sorry if I made any snapping remarks at you or was disengenious in any way. I didn't take it're a fun person to debate for that reason. I actually respect your rhetorical sophistication in that way. I don't mind being told I'm wrong, or an idiot. You're way of doing it actually is kinda fun, if that makes sense...?!?

I hope there's nothing wrong with complimenting a swift and skillful blow. Maybe it seems like I'm not taking you serious...I don't know. I am the first to admit that you're both intelligent and a good debater, and I respect you for both of those.

Now, I should clarify.

I wasn't really exploring the various world religions withing the confines of Briercrest. I did a majority of my investigation of Buddhism, Bahaiism, Shinto, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Satanism and Zoroastrianism when I was in high school.

I tried as best as I could to sort through the 'path of salvation' in all those systems, and I found them all equally full of holes on all the really "fun" questions. (meaning and purpose of life, nature and existance of evil, origin of the universe, nature of God, ultimate direction and culmination of time, etc.)

I got a copy of the writings of all of those religious systems and read as much as I could process; the Upanishads, the Qu'ran, the Vedas, the writings of Bah'aula, the Satanic Bible, etc. I tried to take my understandings from the original documents as much as I could, but at the time I didn't understand that much of those religious systems don't come from an authoritative text like Christianity does.

I didn't adequately understand Christianity in high school, but I figured out that none of those systems really had any sort of understanding of the "problem" of what's wrong with the world or how to fix it.

Moslems argue that the problem is infidelity to Allah, and it's fixed by keeping the 5 pillars.

Hindus believe that the problem is that we need enlightenment, but you don't have a clue what it is or when you're there, but that doesn't matter beacause maybe you'll have better luck in the next life.

Buddhists deny that there is anything wrong with the world except that I THINK there's something wrong. Once I learn to empty myself of doubt and desire, I'll find peace.

Satanists believe that what's wrong with the world is that we let other people tell us what to do and walk on us, and the solution is to stand up for ourselves and realize the inherent power we posess to get what we want.

...and on and on...

When I was at Briercrest, I sorted through Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventists, Scientology and other movements that claim to be the "true" Christianity.

But through my time at Briercrest in 1995-99, I really developed more philosophical problems and I found that I was rejecting as much as I was learning. I wanted to have an understanding of God, faith and the Bible that would satisfy my philosophically, and Glenn Runnalls' philosophy and apologetics classes provided more questions than answers.

Then, in 2000 and 2001, I lived in Saskatoon and was befriended by several people who were atheists, buddhists, moslems and a few other religious systems. I returned to my high school thoughts and took a second look at those systems, now that I understood the gospel more (after really becoming a Christian after my 2nd year of Briercrest). I realized that every world religion has a 'loophole' for good works, and ONLY Christianity has salvation by faith apart from any good work. (that was weird to realize) I also discovered Pascal's wager and applied it in a little different way:

- If Christianity is FALSE, and I live a life according to Christianity, (i.e. a good moral life in correspondance with the [false] teachings of Christ) then I'll be "saved" via a "good works" loophole in EVERY major world religious system.

- If Christianity is TRUE, and I live a life according to Christianity (i.e. have authentic faith in Christ, leading to good works), then the ONLY way I'll be "saved" is by believing in the person and work of Christ, for NO other religious system had THAT.

So Christianity was the only system that seemed to make ANY sense to hold. It was a 'win/win' scenerio.

And, upon returning to school in 2001, I started aggressively sorting through my philosophical problems regarding epistemology and metaphysics.

I ended up stumbling upon "A Survey of Christian Epistemology" by Cornelius Van Til. That book, and the other 5 volumes in his "in defense of the faith" series really gave me some serious fuel to use in my quest for certain answers.

I also ended up reading a TON of other thinkers and discovered both William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias, who were instrumental in working through my philosophical struggles with certain questions, and though I'm pounding through some specific questions now, I've hammered through most of the big ones that kept me up at night.

So, I probably wasn't "fair" to the other religious systems.

How could I be "fair"? Join them and try them for a decade?

I'm not sure why I need to be "fair" to them in the first place. I definitely had my time where I thought the Bible was a load of crap and Christians were all hypocrites and everything was a load.

Somehow, God brought me through that and to the other side to have my faith strengthened, and my serious questions answered.

I have 2 questions for you though:

1. On what foundation do you justify approaching the Bible with doubt?

(Don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about "historical evidence" or anything. I'm talkint about a STARTING POINT. Before any "data" is given. How do you start with "doubt" in the Bible, and how is THAT fair to the scriptures?

Would not a truly open minded thinker put the scriptures on the table with all other forms of data and weigh them ALL according to their weight?)

2. How could you be "fair" to those religions and give them an unbiased ear? How does one obtain epistemic/metaphysical objectivity?

5:39 AM

Blogger Grady said...

the armchair thologian,

I was amused by your use of Pascal's wager, and while your wager was indeed different from the classic wager it is nonetheless still a very flawed argument. Your wager like Pascal's is of course a false dichotomy. There are many other possibilities. I will just name you one. What if god gave us these great big brains of ours in order to be used and then sets up systems demanding faith in order to test us. Those that reject logic and reason and rather use faith burn in hell, those of us that reject that god on insufficient evidence go to heaven.

Finally, let me put forth to you beyelzu's wager, my own little wager.

The most important thing is knowing the truth, one should be an atheist because it is self correcting, if I die and I am wrong according to most religions I will get to find out that I am wrong and change my mind. If right of course I die knowing that I am right.

A christian on the other hand, while his beleif could be confirmed at death, it cannot be corrected.

8:31 AM

Blogger The Armchair Geek said...

Grady, you're saying MY argument is flawed?

If you're an atheist you can change your mind after death (according to other religions) but if you're a Christian you cannot?

Why not?

If a person lives a good, moral life, all world religions make loop holes for that. Christianity is the only one that does not.

If I'm a "good Christian", believing in the person and work of Christ AND living a good moral life, that's the only possible way to be covered by all religions...

7:37 PM

Blogger Grady said...

ACtually, beyelzu's wager is all about atheism vs. theism. There is no loophole in atheism we all go in the ground. Furthermore you seem to be ignoring the fact that Pascal's wager is in fact a false dichotomy. You ignored my hypothetical god.

The point of beyelzu's wager is that atheism is self correcting, if wrong you get further evidence. If the xian is wrong and the atheist is right, christianity is in fact not self correcting.

Anyway, if I were a less charitable person I would think that you are being intellectually dishonest and ducking the question.

Also, I am not convinced by your blanket assertions about other religions. Do you have any proof about all the other religions both current and historical????

7:03 AM


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