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Good News: Atheists Can Now Go to Heaven (Says Pope)

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Pope Francis

Bizarre Argument

Pope Francis, in a letter to the founder (Dr. Eugenio Scalfari) of popular Italian newspaper La Repubblica (think USA Today of Italy) wrote the following:

As for the three questions you asked me in  the article of August 7th.  It would seem to me that in the first two, what you are most interested in is understanding the Church’s attitude towards those who do not share faith in Jesus.  First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.  Given that  –  and this is fundamental  –  God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience.  In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil.  The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.  (Full text translated to English by La Repubblica can be found here)

This has to be one of the most bizarre statements every written by a Pope.  In my reading in both the English and the Italian of this letter, Pope Francis seems to be asserting an argument something like this:

1.  God’s mercy has no limits – contingent on the sincere contrition of the heart

2.  Sincere contrition of the heart means obedience to own’s own conscience

3.  Obedience to the conscience involves the perception of good and evil

4.  A sincere contrite heart is the one does what is right in the eye of his own conscience

(Therefore)

5.  Pope Francis cannot judge the atheist (Dr. Scalfari) and by corollary any other person(s) who are obedient to their consciences

I am pretty sure I am not taking the Pope’s comments out of context, nor being uncharitable to the argument.  If taken to the logical conclusion anyone on Earth who feels like they are a good person in their own eyes should (or at least could) be a part of God’s kingdom.  This kind of argument does not square with the Gospel or even Catholic dogma.  In my experiences talking with people about spiritual matters nearly all feel that they are a “good person” and would self-affirm that they are obedient to their own conscience.

 

The Love of God, Liberalism and the book of Judges

Pope Francis’ seems to be attempting to make a case that the central tenet of the Christian faith is the Incarnation of Jesus and that the most important element of the atonement is the love of God:

Christian faith believes in this:  that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way to love for everyone.  Therefore there is a reason, dear Dr. Scalfari, when you see the incarnation of the Son of God as the pivot of Christian faith.  Tertullian wrote “caro cardo salutis”, the flesh (of Christ) is the pivot of salvation. Because the incarnation, that is the fact that the Son of God has come into our flesh and has shared joy and pain, victories and defeat of our existence, up to the cry of the cross, living each event with love and in the faith of Abbà, shows the incredible love that God has for every man, the priceless value that he acknowledges. For this reason, each of us is called to accept the view and the choice of love made by Jesus, become a part of his way of being, thinking and acting.  This is faith, with all the expressions that have been dutifully described in the Encyclical.

* * *

In your editorial of July 7th, you also asked me how to understand the originality of Christian Faith as it is actually based on the incarnation of the Son of God, with respect to other religions that instead pivot on the absolute transcendency of God.

I would say that the originality lies in the fact that faith allows us to participate, in Jesus, in the relationship that He has with God who is Abbà and, because of this, in the relationship that He has with all other men, including enemies, in the sign of love. In other words, the children of Jesus, as Christian faith presents us, are not revealed to mark an inseparable separation between Jesus and all the others:  but to tell us that, in Him, we are all called to be the children of the only Father and brothers with each other. The uniqueness of Jesus is for communication not for exclusion.

In this sense, coupled with the argument above, Pope Francis seems far closer to Unitarianism or liberal Protestantism than he does Catholicism or anything from the New Testament.  This is some kind of vague pure love of God version of Jesus who is the nice Galilean homeless guy who challenged the status quo and broke social norms so we can all sit around the campfire holding hands singing kumbaya.  This is the pure love of God version of Jesus that doesn’t really care about sin… as long as you feel good about obeying your own seared conscience.

There was a time when God’s people did what was right in their own eyes… :

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6 ESV

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25 ESV

… and it was a total mess.

 

The Good News

To be crystal clear, Jesus’ death on the cross makes no sense for anything but the paying for the sin of His people and the transfer of His perfect life in return.  

The Good News is that Jesus was perfect so that you the imperfect might have your law-breaking wiped clean and Jesus’ perfection deposited into your account.  His death is what wipes away the penalty of law-breaking and His perfect life is what makes His people Holy in the eyes of God.

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Written by Michael Graham

September 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

Best Links of the Week

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Best Links of the Week

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Incredible story of a geological statistician who figured out the algorithm of winning certain lottery scratch off tickets.

Apparently a higher up Google executive, turned spokesperson for Egyptian opposition group is now missing.  Strange.

Microsoft scandal of Bing copying Google’s search results.

An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel

The Arab Revolution and Western Decline

Excellent piece by Doug Wilson entitled, “Gravitron Fairies

Christianity Today on the debate of Bible translation how far to go in contextualization into Arabic

U.S. gives secrets about British Trident class nuclear submarines in order to secure nuclear arms deal with Russia.

Kevin DeYoung makes a brief yet cogent case that the principle difference between Liberal Protestants, Evangelical Protestants, and Roman Catholics is their view of Scripture.

91 year old man and his 82 year old wife successfully stand against a robber in their home.  These kinds of folks amaze me… the kind of folks that made this country great.  We need more like them.

Online Universities are future of education says Bill Gates.

A Typical Day of Air Traffic:

Best Links of the Week

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George W. Bush has a few refreshingly rare words for a former president in a recent interview:

I don’t want to go out and campaign for candidates. I don’t want to be viewed as a perpetual money-raiser. I don’t want to be on these talk shows giving my opinion, second-guessing the current president. I think it’s bad for the country, frankly, to have a former president criticize his successor. It’s tough enough to be president as it is without a former president undermining the current president. Plus, I don’t want to do that.

Huge insult during Chinese delegation visit and huge blunder by Obama administration – “A State Insult with Chinese Charateristics.”  This further highlights

Indian government has a $35 tablet computer.

LinkedIn is going public.

Why You Should Always Run Up the Score” – First Things

GOP entertaining privatizing Medicare.

The most sued companies in America.  Surprise, all the usual subprime suspects lead the list…

China keeps ramping up the dollar rhetoric.

 

FCIC Report – Financial Crisis was Avoidable – I am not sure whether this is the case or not.  It is a rather complex question of whether it was avoidable or not.   It leaves me with the question, does human irrationality not necessitate the existence of irrational bubbles?

Over 99% vote for secession in Southern Sudan

Drug smugglers attempt to catapult drugs over U.S./Mexico border.  Nothing like profit driving innovation… I wonder if they came up with their pot trebuchet idea while smoking pot.

Tons of British Anglicans fleeing the Anglican church in favor of Roman Catholicism

Baseball player walks away from $12 million salary because he says he ‘doesn’t deserve it.’

Rafi Eitan recounts the story of their capture of Nazi Holocaust chief architect Adolf Eichmann.

Truly excellent interview with Francis Ford Coppola:

There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

UN spends $288,700 per “green job”

Consumer confidence crashing in the UK

11% of all homes are vacant in U.S. – this amounts to 18 million homes

Florida Judge rules that Obamacare is unconstitutional.  In the same vein, “Tawdry Details of Obamacare

“Greatest Putt-Putt Shot Ever”

Smooth Criminal on Cello

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 1

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Here is the AUDIO for the first lecture.

I was struck by a few things in doing my research on the life, thought, and influence of Nietzsche.  First, I am struck at how dark, bleak, and sick was Nietzsche’s early world.  Second, I was struck by the damning affects of the poison that flowed from the Tubingen School, particularly in the thought of Strauss, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer (Tubingen was the school that started all of the criticism of the Bible that eventually led to the splitting of Protestantism into its conservative and liberal branches).  Third, I am struck by how different Nietzsche’s thought changed over time and how he moves beyond all of his influences.  Fourth, I am struck by both the radicalness and the consistency of Nietzsche’s atheism, he is the one atheist who says that morality is contingent on the existence of God.  Fifth, I am struck that Nietzsche is really a kind of Greek thinker in the vein of Dionysus and that the goal of his whole philosophy is life affirmation.  Sixth, I am struck by how much I agree with Nietzsche both in what bothers him and what he affirms.  Finally, I couldn’t agree more with David Hart when he says, “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche.”

Below is the outline and audio from the first lecture:

I.  Biography and Psychology

A.  Death

B.  Boarding School at Pforta

C.  Chronic Illness

D.  Bonn/Leipzig

E.  University of Basel

F.  Franco-Prussian War Medical Orderly

II.  Intellectual Influences

A.  David Frederick StraussDas Leben Jesu

B.  Ludwig von FeuerbachThe Essence of Christianity

C.  Friedrich LangeHistory of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance (Geschichte des Materialismus)

D.  Dionysus

E.  Arthur Schopenhauer

F.  Richard Wagner

III.  Nietzsche’s Thought

A.  “The Death of God”

B.  Nihilism

C.  Master and Slave Morality

D.  Übermensch

E.  Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht)

F.  Eternal Recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft)

IV.  Nietzsche’s Influence

A.  William Butler Yeats

B.  Martin Heidegger

C.  Albert Camus

D.  Michel Foucault

E.  Jacques Derrida

F.  Martin Buber

G.  Adolf Hitler (sort of)

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

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Darwin: Origin of Species

…and why you should read them (or at least be familiar with them).

These are books that have had a deleterious affect on humanity (almost exclusively Western in their thinking).  Some of them had “good intentions”* but fell flat on their face with horrible unintended consequences.  The Christian has the responsibility to defend the truth of the Gospel.  One part of defending the truth is refuting all untruth.  We need to be reading primary sources of the things we are seeking to deconstruct – not summaries, the wikipedia article, or a blog post about it.

*1.  The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin
I do not think Darwin would agree with half of Neo-Darwinianism or macroevolution.  He makes massive concessions that geology and microbiology would need to corroborate his thesis.  He was a good scientist who followed the evidence, I think he would be in the intelligent design camp (perhaps this is a controversial statement, but read Origin for yourself).  I have listed this as #1 as this work was critical in pretty much all of the destructive thoughts of the past 150 years:  Eugenics, Scientific Naturalism, Nietzschean atheism, New Atheism, Liberal Protestantism, and Communism.

2.  Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

This book is probably the most influential book in philosophy since the ancient Greeks.  Kant seeks to synthesize the great debate of the history of philosophy:  Being vs. Becoming aka Plato vs. Aristotle.  In the process, Kant comes to the conclusion that our minds cannot have knowledge of things that are not physical – ie. God and many other absolute truths.  In defense of Kant, his thinking did begin to change in his third work as he makes some wiggle room for faith as being a legitimate pathway for knowledge (but almost no one reads his third volume).

3.  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

20,000,000 dead under Stalin, 6-8,000,000 dead under Lenin, 40,000,000 dead under Mao Zedong, 1,700,000 dead under Pol Pot… case and point.

4.  On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

This guy birthed liberal Protestantism.  His ideas split Protestantism and millions think they know Jesus when they don’t.

5.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche decries how humanity has killed God through our apathy.  He then espouses why humanity needs to move beyond God, morality, truth, and the good, in favor of embracing exerting power and control over the weak.

*6.  Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

Descartes had every intention of proving through pure axiomatic reasoning that God existed.  In short, his arguments for God’s existence were awful and his arguments for doubting everything were excellent.  His legacy is solid argumentation for skepticism.  Epic Fail.

7.  Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

11-17,000,000 dead.  Hitler sees Judaism, capitalism, and communism as the three major threats to Germany.  The Final Solution means purging all associated with these things and the result is the Holocaust.  Awful.

8.  Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty

In my view, this is the most important book to be read today for the Christian.  For an explanation why, read my previous blog post on post-modern-pragmatism.

9.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

In order to be successful in life you must exercise control through power and manipulation.  Morality hurts your ability to exert your will.

10.  Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

11.  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Society is corrupt, man is good.

12.  The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger

Sanger promoted sexual liberation and then birth control, abortion, and eugenics.  39,000,000+ babies dead worldwide… this year from abortion.

13.  Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Humans are immoral, therefore only Leviathan is the solution… Leviathan is a strong and aggressive central government.

14.  The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism.

15.  The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

16.  Various Writings by Pelagius

Denial of the doctrine of original sin, denial of efficacious grace, and the denial of the sovereignty of God.  1600 years later his teachings still plague the church.

17.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey

This was just painful to read (and I was unable to finish) and I am not endorsing actually getting a copy (hence no link).  Kinsey basically says that no sexual behavior or orientation is immoral.  All is permissible.

18.  The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Some bit of gnosticism had to make this list.  I wrestled with what to choose here.  Pagels is your run of the mill critic who says that the gnostic “gospels” are the real story and history.  These ideas are ridiculous due to their pseudepigraphic nature, date of writing, and mutually exclusive theologies.

19.  Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.

20.  Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

Russell is one of the few atheists other than Nietzsche that I respect.  His thoughts are well ordered and argued.  The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens…) wish they could hold a candle to Russell.

21.  Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead

Whitehead argues for Process Theology.  Read about Process Theology here.

22.  The Council of Trent

Justification by faith alone is anathematized.  Veneration of Mary and saints upheld.  Transubstantiation upheld.  I love my brothers and sisters who are Christians in the Catholic church despite the Catholic church.  Trent had the opportunity to listen to the Reformation and return to God’s Word for truth.  It did not and left in its wake countless eternal casualties.

23.  His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Pullman sought to write the opposite of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He seeks to commend humanism and ultimately atheism as the commendable life path.  His Dark Materials is aimed at young adults and has been recently popularized by the Golden Compass film.

24.  Protagoras by Plato

For clarity sake, these are sayings ascribed to Protagoras and not Platonic thoughts.  The famous quote is “Man is the measure of all things.”  Protagoras is the first person to espouse a kind of moral relativism.

25.  Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead

The logical consequences of naturalism and Darwinianism applied to anthropology and sociology.  What is primitive is good, therefore the sexual inhibition she evidenced in primitive Samoa ought to be writ large.

Some thinkers who nearly made this list:

Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Johann Fichte, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Joseph Smith, Percy Shelley, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Wilson, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Jean-François Lyotard, Claude Levi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.

What did I miss?

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