God’s Not Dead, Introduction – Ground Zero of Faith (pt1)
I was gifted this book by my grandmother whom I love beyond anything. I didn’t take offense when she gave it to me and asked me to read it, in fact, I had been readying myself for just such an occurrence. I didn’t know who or when would gift me something to attempt a change of heart but I was certain it would happen. I accepted the book greatfully and fully intended to read it even though I wasn’t sure it would change my mind.
Ryan, you accepted Christ at church camp in 1998.
You were baptised in Oct. 1998.
Grandmother and Grandfather
I opened the book to find this note lovingly written by my grandmother through her tremors. I know its purpose was to remind me when and where I made the decision to follow the Christian way or to bring back those feelings from half a life ago. Amazingly or not, it did just that. I was brought back to that campfire and the shelter we used to eat in and hold meetings that summer. I could almost smell the aromas of camp. I was brought back to the feelings I had that night as I joined the group around the campfire.
The funny thing is that I didn’t actually have a life changing feeling of commitment to Jesus/God that night. I remember well that I joined the circle around the fire because I was nearly the only kid who hadn’t. If I could delve into my grandmother’s memories I wonder if she retains what I remember her saying to me after the campfire when I went back and sat down because I didn’t want to follow the other kids into the dinning hall. I don’t remember verbatim but the essential part was her asking me why I didn’t follow through and my not being able to explain that I just didn’t feel it. I think back and remember it as my not wanting to hurt her feelings because I knew how she felt about the church and God, but it may have just been that I was thirteen and couldn’t verbalize my feelings.
Another bit that I have a problem with about this inscription is that I was 13. There are likely no other decisions that we make when we are that young that we are expected to standby for the rest of our lives. I don’t want to make this post about my grandmother’s note but I needed to explain. I must make it clear that I love my grandparents a great deal and I hold no ill-will about their taking me to church. I feel like their influence in my life as been completely positive and made me the person I am, now on with the actual book review.
I’ve never reviewed a book on my own, not as a school project, but these are the feelings and thoughts I had as I read this book. That’s right I have my actual thoughts as I was reading, I’m not going back and talking about it from memory. As I read the book I made sure to write out thoughts and comments in the margins of the book. I had fun reading and commenting on this book, I hope it turns out as well in the internets as it did in the book. I will be as true as capable to the quotes and the only emphasis will be the author’s, I will only add my emphasis in my commentary.
Before the actual book starts I made a note after I had finished directed at anyone who would read it after me. I warned them to familiarize themselves with the ideas of quote mining, appeal to authority, god of the gaps, ad populam, ad hominem, and the other logical fallacies.
GROUND ZERO OF FAITH
The introduction begins with the author recounting a story from his friend Dean being “rocked” in his faith after a single conversation with an atheist.
Frustrated and embarrassed by his own inability to answer this skeptical barrage, he finally told God he intended to stop believing.
What happened next was the last thing he expected. After making his declaration that he would no longer believe, he heard a voice: Who do you think you’re talking to?
I can’t believe that I had a commentary on the very first paragraph of the book. I am reluctant to believe this story not only because it is one of those ‘too good to be true’ stories of failing faith being responded to by the one and only God but also because we don’t choose what we believe. I have been lead to understand that belief is not a conscious decision. Our beliefs are affected by what we understand about the world, by the evidence we encounter everyday, and the questions we face everyday about those beliefs. A single conversation is not likely to overturn a lifetime of religious faith.
I will be honest; I had that one last conversation with God but it wasn’t ‘I intend to stop believing’ it is more like ‘there are some serious problems, this is your chance to answer for them and convince me’. Perhaps I continued on my atheistic road because I didn’t hear a voice or maybe the voice he heard was simply his inner monologue wanting to ‘stay the course’.
Continuing, the author brings up the apostle Peter quoting 1 Peter 3:15.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15 is actually one of those good parts of the Bible that even atheists quote, but even the Bible isn’t sure of whether a believer should answer questions about their faith or not. Click here for a breakdown of verses from each side of the debate.
After quoting Greg Graffin as saying there hasn’t been “a single shred of data” to confirm the existence of a creator god the author continues:
Graffin is partially right. There isn’t a shred of data. There is evidence for an intelligent Creator everywhere you look. To say there is no evidence for this Creator is like saying the thousands of paintings in an art museum couldn’t have been painted because there are no artists visible in the gallery.
My only comment here in the book is “No, it isn’t”. The simile is flawed. A painting has no means of reproduction, no means to change itself or its environment, no way to adapt; humans do! If we can explain the world naturally, we should, there is no need to add in an additional variable to the mix. Occam’s Razor is the best explanation. “The fewer assumptions that are made, the better.” The author then, rightfully, quotes Steven Hawking “what place, then, for a creator?”
The reality is that people come to a place of faith not against reason but through it.
More than once throughout this book I actually agree with a point the author makes, this is one of those times. I am confident that believers come to faith through reason but that doesn’t mean the reasoning is valid and as a result the conclusion. For example:
- I tell Sariah to be good or Santa won’t bring her toys.
- Sariah is good (most of the time)
- Toys show up on Christmas morning
- Sariah believes Santa exists!
The logic is internally consistent but that doesn’t mean the conclusion has to be true. The basic principles of the argument must be sound for the argument to be sound and the conclusion reasonable. The author writes:
That’s why the first step of faith or ground zero is to believe God exists.
This sentence is the very basis for the Presuppositional stance. Believe God exists and then you can be convinced he is real. It is confusing to say the least and completely fallacious. If you change the word God with Allah, Santa, Leprachauns, Unicorns, anything else, the sentence wouldn’t be anymore or less believable. This is something that is lost on most presuppositionalists it seems.
Talking of atheists:
They feast on unprepared religious people who unintelligently hold to beliefs they’ve merely inherited, who have only a secondhand faith.
Again, a point I agree with. My commentary: “It seems that we agree that you should have a basis for your belief. More than just because you were born in a Christian home or a Jewish or Islamic.” This is a very big point that opened my eyes to the world. How can all these people believe with the same fervor (or more) as I do but believe in all different gods? What makes my faith more important or more true than their’s? What do you think about these two peoples:
- the Christian whose faith is based on being raised in the religion not on studying and deciding for themselves.
- the Jewish/Islamic follower whose faith is just as strong or stronger than your own.
I must make note of this next little quote by the author, speaking of atheists:
Their strategy is simple:
1. Use ridicule and mockery to label people of faith as anti-intellectual or irrational.
2. Set up a false dichotomy between science and faith, telling people to choose one or the other.
3. Keep the debate one-sided by not allowing a dissenting opinion in the public arena, making sure the only places where expressions of faith are allowed are in strictly religious settings.
This is a very stereotypically negative view of the dreaded ATHEIST that just isn’t based in reality. These three points are very clearly pointed at everyone who does not want Intelligent Design (I.D.) taught in our classrooms as science, like myself. That debate is better relayed in a different post as this one will be long enough without it.
As a Christian minister my passion is to teach the truths believers need not only to defend themselves from getting robbed of their faith but also to go on the offensive with the unbelieving world around them, demonstrating that God exists.
If your belief in something is baseless enough to be able to be talked out of it, does that belief even deserve your faith? An idea that is backed by concrete evidence won’t be swayed enough to change your position. No matter how much someone tries, an overwhelming majority of people would not change their thoughts on the world being an oblete spheroid.
Once on an airplane I sat next to a strange woman who told me she believed she was God. After hearing this I smiled and said, “If you’re God, I’ve got a lot of questions for you.” Reason helps us dismiss absurd claims like this.
Once in a church I read a book about a strange being which claimed it was God. After reading this I smiled and said ‘If you’re God, I’ve got a lot of questions for you.’ “Reason helps us dismiss absurd claims like this.” Mr. Broocks says reason led him to not believe her claim of divinity (which was likely satirical) but my commentary sought his reasons to disbelieve her claim. I would bet that his ‘reason’ to disbelieve her claim would be very similar to most atheist’s ‘reason’ to disbelieve any other god claim. I explain that the Bible is said to be the word of God that proclaims His existence. I see no difference in the lady on the plane saying she is God and the deity in the Bible saying it is God.
The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t prevail only when there are no competitors; it shines most brightly when it is held up to other faiths.Secular religions, like Darwinian naturalism, can’t make the same boast.
Christ commanded His followers to advance His message by the irresistible force of love and the power of truth.
Actually I will agree that the current Christian church “shines brightly” compared to, say, Islam, but the shiniest of two turds doesn’t make it any less of a turd. Also, remember Matt 10:34-37 and Luke 22:36. Interpretation leads some followers to the good and some to the bad.
True faith in God isn’t coerced. It arises freely. The message of Christ transformed the Roman Empire because that message was based in love and truth and because it did not coerce obedience as other religions did. That’s why skeptics, idolaters, and atheists turned to the message of Jesus in the early years of Christianity, regardless of where they were born. In places such as America, where the Christian faith has been practiced for generations, those born in the faith have an advantage that should not be ignored or dismissed as trivial.
My commentary on this paragraph is easier viewed in my book but for this post I will recreate the paragraph with my markings. Note how the tone of the paragraph doesn’t change only the subject and end result do. The paragraph as I have changed it would work just as well in a book titled ‘Allah’s Not Dead’:
True faith in
GodAllah isn’t coerced. It arises freely. The message of ChristMuhammad transformed the RomanMeccan Empire because that message was based in love and truth and because it did not coerce obedience as other religions did. That’s why skeptics, idolaters, and atheists turned to the message of JesusMuhammad in the early years of ChristianityIslam, regardless of where they were born. In places such as AmericaIraq, where the ChristianIslamic faith has been practiced for generations, those born in the faith have an advantage that should not be ignored or dismissed as trivial.
The fact that so few words can be changed in a paragraph and still be valid but for a completely different point, a point which I think the author would likely disagree, is compelling. I can imagine a Hindu/Jew/Islamic follower explaining their own religions in paragraphs nearly exactly the same as the one above and I can’t understand why anyone feels their version of the paragraph would be any more credible than someone else’s version.
Another little side note I made at this time was a lyric from Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun. The author has touched on this idea a few times in the couple of pages I’ve read at this point, but the quote above sparked the Minchin lyric in my head.
I don’t go in for ancient wisdom,
I don’t believe just ‘cos ideas are tenacious it means they’re worthy.