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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Al Mohler Burns Down Atheist Straw Man


From Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News via the DMN Religion Blog:

"Dr. Albert Mohler, one of the more interesting of Southern Baptist theologians, has a new book upcoming that looks to waste his power on a less-than-robust foe. According to my e-box:

"In his new book, Atheism Remix, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary examines atheism's surge in popularity."

And yes, there's statistical evidence for a "surge" in people saying they're atheists, in the same way that those "ocean in a bottle" desk doo-dads might contain a tsunami. According to last year's Pew Forum survey, the percentage of Americans who say they're atheists has soared all the way to -- wait for it -- 1.6 percent! And a fifth of those say they believe in some kind of god.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

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28 Comments:

Blogger M. Steve Heartsill said...

Just curious...what was the previous number?

5:02 AM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Looks like Al may have caught the same syndrome from the other Al--Gore, that is.

The syndromes' common symptom is this:

Make some bucks by coming out with a great artistic work--book, movie documentary, speaking tour, take your pick--on a non-crisis you create.

10:25 AM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

Cat's Dad,

You are no doubt referring to Gore's book "The Assault on Reason." But let me assure you this particular crisis is real, and Gore didn't create it. You'd be amazed (I guess) at the sheer number of irrational people in this nation.

12:12 PM

 
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

Why are Christians so worried about atheists?

If they don't want to believe in a deity fine. It does not affect my deity worship in any way.

I have met a few atheists over the years. Many of them had been burnt by religion and their reaction is to _____with God.

Perhaps a better book would be:

"Why Baptists help turn people into Atheists."

or

"Practical Atheism" The True Religion practiced my most Evangelicals on Sunday."

Bruce

12:27 PM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Perhaps you just aren't paying attention to what is happening outside of your own little world. ABC News recently did a report on the rise of atheism. And while the percentages might still be low, anyone should take notice of a movement whose adherents have doubled in the past 20 years.

Here's a link to the report. And Alan Wolfe says this in it:

"Over the last 20 years the number of people willing to tell people in surveys that they don't believe in God have pretty much doubled."


Bruce, as for why Christians should care - well, we should care about all people in false religions. The last time I checked, the Great Commission hasn't been rescended. And we are called to contend for the faith.

Add to that the number of Christians who have come out of atheism due to logical arguments against their position, and it seems this is indeed a needed task. Who knows how many more C.S. Lewis's and Josh McDowell's God could call to faith through books like Mohler's?

Oh, and Cat's Dad, Mohler's not going to be doing a book tour and he certainly doesn't need the book to promote an agenda (ala Al Gore). He's merely standing on the principles of God's Word. And certainly Mohler's books are more needed than Joel Osteen's. Wouldn't you agree?

12:50 PM

 
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

Many atheists are already schooled in the gospel.

I have my doubts that this book will do much to win atheists to Jesus.

A better book would be one that implores the Church to stop making people into atheists.

We are the problem, not them.

Let's see Joel Osteen, Al Mohler? How about instead of either or, neither.

Who will be the primary buyer of this book? Not atheists. Just another Christian book to be read and forgotten.

We don't need any more books. We need Jesus like living.

1:40 PM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

"We are the problem, not them."

Fundamentalism, by its very nature, can never endorse this position. The instant it does, it begins to transform itself into something different (and better).

1:46 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

dunningrb,

I'm referring to Al (Gore)'s very-convenient-for-him "documentary," related books, and anything else he's concocted on the concocted crisis.

And yes, I'm amazed at the sheer number of irrational people in this nation who buy into and buy Gore's carbon offset. He would be laughing all the way to the bank--if he weren't equally irrational.

And no, you haven't assured me the global warming crisis is real. On the other hand, I'm quite sure an atheist's crisis is real--the Bible tells me so.

2:51 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

d.r.,

Yes, I agree.

I granted the post some unearned points because I wanted to turn the topic to the other Al and his created crisis.

2:56 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

dunningrb,

Do I hear you endorsing Bruce's claim "We (Christians, followers of Christ) are the problem, not them (atheists, rejectors of God and His Son)."?

How does your stance coincide with your rejection of the SBTS professor's statement that spousal abuse or estrangement can be triggered by the wife's rejection of Ephesians 5 submission?

To be consistent with the first statement, your position on the latter would need to be, "We (the female victims of abuse or neglect) are the problem, not them (the male abusers).

It seems like all it takes to bring out the conflicted views of progressive/moderate/liberal/usually Democrat Baptists is for an SBC seminary or agency leader to say something about anything.

3:15 PM

 
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

cats dad,

I would qualify my comment by saying that Christianity is not the problem, just how we practice it is.

Perhaps the SBC would be better served by "doing" rather than releasing press releases, reports, surveys,etc.

I am not an SBC'r. but I do tend to be one of those progressive/moderate/liberal/usually Democrat types :)

Bruce

3:27 PM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

cat's dad,

"The Assault on Reason" isn't about global warming. It would have been enough to just say you haven't read it.

As for Bruce's statement ("We are the problem, not them."), my reply was this: Fundamentalism, by definition, assumes it has the correct answers to all major questions. So it cannot admit to being "the problem," because it cannot admit the need for correction.

"How does your stance coincide with your rejection of the SBTS professor's statement that spousal abuse or estrangement can be triggered by the wife's rejection of Ephesians 5 submission?"

First, I'm very glad that we agree on what Ware is saying: Spousal abuse is triggered by the wife.

In fact, I really like the term "triggered." It brings to mind the image of a loaded gun ready to go off at a moment's notice. And that's an appropriate image, since Ware (and you, I guess) consider the sinful husband to be something akin to a dangerous weapon that can inflict serious injury the moment a wife dares usurp the husband's "Ephesians 5" authority.

Is my reply to George inconsistent with my position on Ware? I don't think so. My reply to George was a general observation about Fundamentalism, and its inability to make any kind of self-corrective examination of its effects on those outside the group. My position on Ware's theory of spousal abuse is the same as your own: that Ware has claimed non-submissive wives are the "triggers" of the abuse they suffer.

Now, it's true that I find Ware's concepts offensive, while you don't (I guess), so maybe there's inconsistency there after all.

4:17 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

dunningrb,

I'm not referring to Gore's book "The Assault on Reason," I'm referring to "An Incovenient Truth."

No, we're not agreeing on what Ware is saying. Ware and I are saying abuse "can be" triggered, not "is triggered," as you are saying. If you listen to Ware's message, his point is that there are three possible responses on a husband's part that result from a wife's counter-submission: (a) abuse, (b) apathy or complacency or, (c) by the power of God's Spirit, a return to the Ephesians 5 love-submission roles. (He also references the church, not just a marriage.)

As for Bruce's statement, why would you want Christians--fundamentalists or otherwise--to admit we're the problem with atheists being atheists unless you believe we're the problem?

4:52 PM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

cat's dad,

"Can be" instead of "is" is not the issue. You're both saying that when spousal abuse occurs, the "trigger" is the wife's non-submission. In other words, had the rebellious wife not pointed a metaphorical gun at her head and rebelled (pulling the trigger), she wouldn't have been abused.

You can turn it into a game of Russian roulette if you want and say the gun may not be loaded and there's only a chance (33%?) that her husband will punch her in the face. But the fact remains that you and Ware make the wife's decision to not submit the "trigger" for whatever happens next: the husband punches her in the face, the husband becomes a weakling, or the husband has some kind of Ephesians 5 epiphany.

You guys should call this Woody Hayes Theory of marriage. Hayes pointed out that when you pass the football, only three things can happen, and two of them are bad (incomplete pass, interception, or reception). When a wife doesn't submit, only three things can happen: she gets beat up by her husband, she turns her husband into a weakling, or they experience an Ephesians 5 miracle. Two of those bad, and one is really, really bad.

On atheism: In my many conservations with atheists I've observed that the majority are rejecting fundamentalism, not Christianity. Unfortunately, most are unable to tell the difference.

6:17 PM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

If you guys substituted "fundamentalism" for "historic Christianity" maybe you might get it. Jesus very clearly claimed people would hate us because of our love for Him. And the first centuries proved the people hated Christians because they objected to sin, because they claimed that there was only one true God, and because they taught that Jesus was the only way to salvation.

Jesus, Himself, said, "Blessed are those who are not offended by me."

There is not doubt that Christians sometimes cause people to leave the faith, but it is not those who object to atheism or teach historic Christian principles that are the problem. It is those who say they believe in Christ, but live in sin. Christ is the only remedy for sin. He paid for ours on the cross.

10:54 AM

 
Blogger D.R. said...

Bruce,

You said:

Many atheists are already schooled in the gospel.

I have my doubts that this book will do much to win atheists to Jesus.


Ah, please inform the Holy Spirit of this so He can quit His work in the hearts of atheists. Somehow I don't really think you can know if the latter is true. And even if it helps one sinner come to the truth of the Gospel, isn't it worth it?


Futher:
A better book would be one that implores the Church to stop making people into atheists.

We are the problem, not them.


Perhaps you should write the book instead of telling all of us how Mohler is wrong for writing what He feels God has called Him to write.

As for the problem - it is not us - it is sin. Sin is the problem that Christ came to die to solve. And He never said that we would be the ultimate stumbling block for men coming to Christ. And men and women suffering in Hell for eternity won't get a free pass because of Christians. All excuses will be shut up with sin in Hell.

What we do need to worry about is preaching the same Gospel that Peter preached, the same Gospel that Paul preached, and the same Gospel Jesus preached in Mark 1 - repent and believe in the Good news, that Jesus died for our sins, was raised in three days, made Himself known, and ascended to the Father to make intercession for His people. That is the only Gospel that can save. Wouldn't you agree? And to the extent that we don't preach that Gospel to the ends of the earth, then we should repent for it!

As for Dr. Mohler's book - if it presents the Gospel, it's worth printing. And that's really the bottom line.

11:36 AM

 
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

D.R.

I pastored a fair number of Christians who believed ALL the right things. They were orthodox at every point......

but

then came the Baptist business meeting, the personal interaction, the day to day lifestyle.......that showed a complete disconnect between the orthodoxy and the lifestyle.

The Church makes atheists, not by what she believes, but by how she lives.

Bruce

11:39 AM

 
Blogger Bruce Gerencser said...

D.R.

I don't subscribe to the "one sinner gets saved it is worth it" school of thought. I have heard that line to justify just about everything. The statements presumes to know what God thinks and what God values.

Al Mohler is a Reformed Calvinist, so I suspect whatever "gospel" the book may contain will have the appropriate 5 point spin.

Mohler is the latest, greatest expert on everything. He has become the Spurgeon of the 21st century. Quote Mohler.......end of discussion.

You underestimate greatly the damage that Christians do to others, particularly in America. How does the public view the Evangelical Church? We are known for what we are against. We hate gays. We are pro-life but we only believe life is sacred until birth.(then we execute them and bomb them) We have militarized and politicized the Church. We spend vast sums of money on buildings and programs that benefit the fat sheep. Very little of our money goes towards acts of mercy and justice. (and yes I know I am painting with a broad brush. Everyone can give anecdotal stories)

Most Church growth is transfer growth. 50-75% of Southern Baptists on the membership roll can't be found on a given Sunday. The majority of Churches never baptize one convert in a given year. For all our books and preaching it seems there is not a lot of soul saving going on.

Thus my contention that WE are the problem.

11:54 AM

 
Blogger foxofbama said...

Check the Doctorow link at my blog on the Great White or baptistlife.com for eloquent statement with references to Mark Noll and the Rove/Land cancer we struggle to cure in America's character.
Get the word around about this essay; it is strong

8:27 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

dunningrb,

Perhaps the reason atheists and non-believers have trouble distinguishing fundamentalism from Christianity, so as to be clear about what(really, who)they're rejecting, is that's there is no difference to distinguish.

1:41 PM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

cat's dad is wrong. There is a difference between fundamentalism and Christianity. Fundamentalism is a commitment to absolute religious authority, built on belief in an inerrant scripture. Compromise on doctrinal and social issues is not tolerated, ever.

Fundamentalism isn't limited to Christianity. There are fundamentalist elements in every major world religion. The essence of fundamentalism is what Karen Armstrong called "embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis." Fundamentalists believe that modern society is a kind of machine constructed to destroy their faith and/or community.

Fundamentalism in Christianity can be traced back no farther than the 1800s. The term "fundamentalism" seems to have originated in the early 1900s. Since Christianity predates fundamentalism by many centuries, claiming fundamentalism and Christianity are identical makes about as much sense as claiming that Mormonism and Christianity are identical. Mormonism and Fundamentalism are about the same age, after all.

Christianity is world's largest religion. Over two billion people self-identify as followers of the Christian faith. Only small a fraction consider them fundamentalist. Collectively, our beliefs are wide-ranging. For example, the simple question, "Who is Christian?" cannot be easily answered by surveying the beliefs of various Christian groups.

For some groups, including fundamentalists, a Christian is a person who endorses the group's doctrines. For others, a Christian is a person who participates in the sacraments. For others, a Christian is a person who publicly professes faith in Jesus Christ--regardless of where he or she stands on theological questions. For others, a Christian is a person who has received a tangible spiritual gift from God.

Christians are united on a small number of core beliefs. One might refer to the beliefs as "fundamentals," but only with a measure of confusion. Fundamentalist Christians share these core beliefs: that Jesus is God, that he died and rose again, and that he forgives our sins. Many endorse Trinitarian doctrine, if only in vague terms. But they add additional beliefs that Christianity has never consider essential: such as a strictly literal reading of Genesis and rejection of modern biology (but not modern medicine!), and their hallmark: the inerrant Bible.

The atheists I've encountered over the years have a poor understanding of Christianity, in part because they have virtually no understanding of Trinitarian doctrine, the unique theological truth that Christianity has contributed to the world's religious landscape.

Trinitarian doctrine serves Christianity the same way that the theory of evolution serves modern biology. It provides the framework within which all other statements make sense. Without the theory of evolution, modern biology simply ceases to function as a scientific enterprise. Nothing in biology makes sense without it. (Ask any professional biologist.) Without the Trinity, Christianity ceases to make sense, and our ability to bring God's truth to the world is compromised.

For me, the essential problem with fundamentalism is that it has forgotten the central place of the Trinity in Christian theology, essentially replacing the Trinity (and sometimes Jesus himself) with the inerrant Bible. And along with that replacement has come a nearly wholesale rejection of modern society, especially modern science (except for the medicine--God forbid!!). Couple this with the dictatorial attitude of fundamentalist Christians, and it's no wonder atheists reject the fundamentalists' beliefs.

In the end, atheists believe that Christianity makes no sense, that it contradicts known facts about the universe, and that it's incompatible with life in a pluralistic, scientific age. Frankly, I believe these statements do apply to the version of Christianity endorsed by fundamentalists, but not to the version of Christianity that has prevailed since the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, I believe fundamentalism has done much to contribute to the number of atheists in the world today.

5:55 PM

 
Anonymous KGray said...

How about some facts about Al Mohler's new book?

Gallup polls show there are about 12 million more atheists in 2007 than in 2001. Mohler wrote the book to respond to four celebrated and honored atheist scientist/philospher/bestselling authors:

Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion - sold 1.5 million copies, translated into 31 languages), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon), Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything -- which reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list).

These four men are widely read, interviewed, excerpted and quoted. All believe that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is not just foolish and wrong, but dangerous to modern civilization. They are secular humanists and rationalists who label themselves intolerant of religion. Hitchens and Dawkins in particular are staples of the speaker circuit, TV and radio; all write articles and commentaries; some have foundations for promotion of rationalism.

These guys are ferociously intellectual -- juggernauts of facts, arguments, and reasoning, often reducing their poor interviewer or debater to silence or sputtering.

Mohler chose to respond to this high-profile attack on Christianity. And he's probably up to the task, IMO.

So what's so snortworthy?

7:03 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The number of atheists IS increasing--mostly because of the bad name that Christians keep giving to GOD!

Fortunately, progressive Christianity and the progressive wing of evangelical Christianity are also on the increase. That makes it harder for Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, etc. to persuade people that "God is not good" simply by pointing to fundamentalists.

If Mohler REALLY wanted to challenge atheism, he would repent of his constant defenses of fundamentalist clap-trap--which gives people such bad views of God and Christianity. Mohler & Co. make atheism look good by default.

8:43 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Michael and others,

You have nothing upon which to base your claim that Christians are the cause of increasing atheism except your subjective opinions.

If you truly believe this to be the case, you should have no beef with the assertion by Ware that a wife's non-submission is a cause of spousal abuse.

This would be consistent with your "We are the problem, not them" outlook.

9:09 PM

 
Anonymous kgray said...

It is true that these atheists commonly object to fundamentalists. But their definition of fundamentalist probably includes all of us. It includes anyone who claims that their belief system (that is, Jesus) provides the only way to eternal life, and anyone who believes that the God they worship is the one and only God. They think that is irrational, anti-science, intolerant, arrogant and dangerous.

They probably don't like Mohler's beliefs -- or mine, or yours.

7:52 PM

 
Anonymous Ray said...

D.R.

Christians in the first three centuries were actually called atheists because they did not believe in the Roman pantheon of gods. They were persecuted mainly because they would not call Caesar Lord. But they also gained popularity not because of their rigid morals, but because they took care of orphans, especially orphan girls.

9:30 PM

 
Blogger Cat's Dad said...

dunningrb,

You said "Trinitarian doctrine serves Christianity the same way that the theory of evolution serves modern biology."

I think I agree with you that, like subscribing to Trinitarian doctrine, subscribing to the theory of evolution requires faith.

And, if by using the tag "theory," you are agreeing to limit evolution to being an unproven theory, fine.

But if one, like some biologists, refuse to allow the possibility of other origin theories being valid --intelligent design and creationism included--then he joins those fundamentalist scientists who attempt to impose their faith system on science, other scientists, and everyone else.

Then, I'm grasping to understand how or why an atheist originates or is persuaded any differently by fundamentalist Christian as opposed to any Trinitarian Christian. How much compromise on doctrine and lifestyle would be necessary to mend this supposed dilemma?

3:56 PM

 
OpenID dunningrb said...

cat's dad,

I believe you misunderstood my comparison between Trinitarian doctrine and the theory of evolution. My point was that each provides a kind of superstructure within which other statements can make sense.

I've made my position on evolution, ID, and creationism clear in several articles on my blog, but you will do better by discussing these matters with a professional biologist. Stephen Matheson maintains a good blog about evolution from a Christian perspective, Quintessence of Dust. Talk.origins also has a lot of good introductory material on evolution.

6:26 PM

 

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