Monday, October 08, 2007

Response to Pat Condell - With Asides

Pat Condell is an atheist who more or less openly mocks Christianity. Here's an example (link) NOTE BEFORE CLICKING: Blasphemy is used in the video, so don't click if that will cause you to stumble.

Part of the problem, however, is that Pat Condell, as an atheist is unable to distinguish between Christianity and its imitators.

Pat begins by addressing "angry Christians" who have been telling him that they are looking forward to his perishing in hell. If there are Christians who have been saying that, they should be ashamed. Pat is not so much more (if at all more) deserving of hell than we are. It is only by grace that we are saved. Furthermore, God may still save Pat: after all, God saved a far worse persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus.

Pat mocks Christians generally as "crazy." It's not surprising. Jesus was similarly insulted by those to whom He preached the gospel of repentance.

Pat suggests that it must be "galling for religious people to see atheists like me going around ... without a shred of guilt or self-loathing ...." Pat seems to have missed the point. Pat does have guilt, though he may not be aware of it. In contrast, Christians do not have guilt, because we have Christ. Furthermore, we reach out to Pat - even when we tell him of his guilt - nor merely to make him realize his sin, but to lead him to the solution to the problem he has: a problem of which he is currently unaware.

It's almost as though Pat is playing with candles on a pile of gunpowder, and then suggesting our calls for him to extinguish the candles is really to spoil his fun or to make him feel nervous.

Pat points out that he is not inclined to pray "or do penance of any kind." It can be seen from that comment that Pat has not really grasped New Testament Christianity, for the New Testament does not call for penance, but repentance.

Then Pat goes off on a claim that if hell does exist, he thinks it is more of place of eternal regret, rather than of eternal torment. Of course, there is no warrant for this claim, though sadly a number of theological liberals have begun to suggest such a thing.

Next, Pat claims that Jesus died for his sins latching hold of errant views on the work of Christ. Pat says he feels "somewhat guilty" that he's not more grateful to Jesus for that, but he says that he wishes that Jesus had asked him before the fact. He says that he now feels as though he is being billed for something that he didn't order.

This atheist's criticism of the "Jesus died for each and every person" misrepresentation is sad, because it could have been avoided by a better presentation of the gospel. Furthermore, the atheist has a good point, which is that the "Jesus died for you" gospel tries to make a person accept Christianity on the basis of an unwanted act.

The atheist points out that if you are a Christian, you are born already in debt. This is true, of course. If you are one of the elect, you are already indebted to Jesus: he has saved you from death by His work on the cross, the least you can do is obey his commandments. Yet it is a debt of gratitude, not a legal debt.

There is a legal debt that all men are born in: namely a debt incurred by sin.

Pat says that the only way you can repay the debt in full is by dying. Pat's not quite right: we can never repay the debt. As to the debt of gratitude, we can simply be grateful eternally. AS to the legal debt, we can only suffer eternally. There is, however, an escape - for if we trust in Christ, we can be confident that He will pay our debt for us.

Pat continues by pointing out that the "Jesus died for you" gospel is like telling a person that they have to pay off a mortgage for a house they already own outright. Although Pat has muddled things a bit, his basic criticism is valid as applied to the "Jesus died for you" gospel. If Jesus already paid the legal debt, then the person no longer owes eternal suffering as the wages of his sin.

Pat continues by asserting that there is no "hard historical evidence that the Jesus of the gospels even existed." In point of fact, however, there are few people of the same generation about whom there is greater hard historical evidence for their existence than the Jesus of the gospels. Pat's claim here borders on the absurd. The gospels themselves are hard historical evidence, after all.

Pat claims that the records we have were written by people who born long after Jesus died. This, however, is clearly mistaken. We do have such records (for example, the testimony of Josephus), but we also have the gospels - written by men who were and interviewed eyewitnesses.

Pat makes an attempted argument from silence as to other (extra-Scriptural) documentation of Jesus' ministry in the secular records of the day. One wonders what writings Pat has in mind? Does Pat suppose that there was a "Jerusalem Daily Tribune" that has been carefully maintained on 1st century microfiche? Where is all this alleged silence evidenced? In point of fact, the argument from silence is bogus. There is not a wealth of contemporary history that all surprisingly omits mention of Jesus, which would be necessary for the argument to carry any force.

Pat mocks Jesus' miracles, claiming that if they were all true, Jesus should have been as famous as Elvis. In point of fact, however, Jesus was famous in his day.

Matthew 9:31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.

Mark 1:28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Luke 5:15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.

Pat claims all we have are second and third hand accounts that have been doctored. In fact, however, as noted above, we have first hand accounts by eyewitnesses.

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

Pat also claims that the Word has been edited and translated back and forth so many times that the truth bears no resemblance to itself "if it ever did." Pat's clearly wrong on this again. There are an enormous amount of handwritten copies of the New Testament in essentially unedited form in the original language (and same for the Old), as well as many early and widely various translations into many languages without significant editing. Although there are some (one could even say "many") minor variations in the copies, there can be little serious doubt that the content of the originals is substantially maintained in the collection.

Pat continues by saying that he does not know who we think we are praying to. It's obviously a rhetorical turn, but it's sadly true. Pat does not know God.

Pat suggests that praying to God has not done us much good, and that we should try praying to Elvis and see how that works. Pat's obviously just trying to be funny/inflammatory. The interesting thing, though, is that Pat's somewhat right. Service to God is not particularly rewarding in this life: in fact, because we worship God we get mocked by the likes of Pat. In some parts of the world and some times in history, we can get tortured and killed for worshiping God. Paul says that if we don't consider the afterlife, we are the most miserable of all men.

Furthermore, it should be clear that those who hate God often life good lives and receive many blessings in this life. It's a question that is sometimes addressed in Scripture, simply because it can be discouraging to be following God and seeing no physical benefit for it. Instead, we look forward to a heavenly reward.

After this, Pat suggests that although Jesus is "a storybook character" he still has some wisdom. Pat then calls to mind Jesus' statement that the "kingdom of God is within," and suggests that "angry Christians" don't really believe those words or "turn the other cheek," "forgive trespasses," and "love your enemy." Instead, he suggests that we want punishment, eternal torture, and unimaginable suffering (on this atheist for mocking and blaspheming) for our own satisfaction. Of course, much of these comments are built on the false premises identified above, as well as the misrepresentations of Christianity that are all too common.

The underlying problem, however, is that like certain Roman Catholics (yes, Jonathan, this is the post I had in mind), this atheist views any attempts to present the gospel and warn of eternal damnation as inherently uncharitable. The charge that we are doing so for our own satisfaction is simply a false accusation - or it least it should be: if we bear witness to the truth for reasons of personal antipathy, we should be ashamed.

Then Pat argues that Jesus would not approve of what "people like you [make] of his teachings." Surely, to an extent, that is true. Jesus could not approve of what every person who calls himself a Christian has done with Christ's teachings, for many people have misapplied Christ's teachings. But Pat takes it a step further and suggests that "nobody listened to a word [Jesus] said." Of course, again, this is simply an attempt to be inflammatory. After all, the "keep it to yourself" - "no eternal suffering" - etc. message is what many modern theological liberals teach.

Finally, Pat argues that Jesus consequently wasted his breath and life. If the Arminian position were correct, it would seem to partially validate the atheist's claim, for Jesus would have died in vain for the recalcitrant atheist. But, of course, the Arminian position is mistaken. God sent his son to save "whosoever believeth in Him" i.e. the elect.

Pat signs off the message with "Peace," but there can be no core peace between the atheist and the Christian. We can avoid being at each other's throats - I can buy baked beans from an atheist and hold a pleasant conversation with him. Nevertheless, the gospel is spiritual warfare, and atheism is the spiritual enemy: either Atheism is right or Christianity is right, there is no middle ground (despite the claims of Islam etc. etc.).

Praise be to Our Most High God!


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