Category Archives: Apologetics

Don’t Tell Them They’re Adorable

Read this, brothers and sisters, and feel free to cheer. Out loud. Laugh. Let a yes and amen fall from your lips.

Atheism is an idea. Most often (thank God), it is an idea lived and told with blunt jumbo-crayon clumsiness. Some child of Christianity or Judaism dons an unbelieving Zorro costume and preens about the living room.

Behold, a dangerous thinker of thinks! A believer in free-from-any-and-all-godness! Fear my brainy blade!

Put candy in their bucket. Act scared. Don’t tell them that they’re adorable. Atheism is not an idea we want fleshed out.

Atheism incarnate does happen in this reality narrative. But it doesn’t rant about Islam’s treatment of women as did the (often courageous) atheist Christopher Hitchens. It doesn’t thunder words like evil and mean it (as Hitch so often did) when talking about oppressive communist regimes. His costume slipped all the time – and in many of his best moments.

Atheism incarnate is nihilism from follicle to toenail. It is morality merely as evolved herd survival instinct (non-binding, of course, and as easy for us to outgrow as our feathers were). When Hitchens thundered, he stood in the boots of forefathers who knew that all thunder comes from on high.

From N.D. Wilson’s latest piece of wild-eyed, razor-brained awesome, Death by Living. Go buy a copy and savor it like a bar of Ghirardelli dark.

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Do You Have Any Preference?

“I reminded him of the debate between philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Betrand Russell. At one point in the debate, Copleston said, “Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don’t you?” Russell answered, “Yes, I do.” “How do you differentiate between them?” challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders as he was wont to do in philosophical dead ends for him and said, “The same way I differentiate between yellow and blue.” Copleston graciously responded and said, “But Mr. Russell, you differentiate between yellow and blue by seeing, don’t you? How do you differentiate between good and bad?” Russell, with all of his genius still within reach, gave the most vapid answer he could have given: “On the basis of feeling – what else?” I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate ‘logical kill’ for the moment would have been, “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?”

– Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (p. 182)

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

I’m going to start my review with a simple injunction: read this book. Comprende? Good.  Let’s move on.

I first become aware of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl a couple years ago, but I never gave it more than a passing glance. In hindsight, I must say that’s really too bad – this is a book I wish I had read much sooner than I did.

Wilson’s premise is that the world – this moist, round, inhabited, spinning ball, filled with flamingos (real and artificial), snowflakes, and human beings – is a work of art crafted by the ultimate Artist. He’s the Someone behind it all, for “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. Through Him all things were made…”

Welcome to His poem. His play. His novel. Skip the bowls of fruit and statues. Let the pages flick your thumbs. This is His spoken world. (p. 8)

Wilson explores this idea with wide-eyed, slack-jawed wonder: unapologetic and as contagious as the measles (only a whole lot better for you). He has Chesterton’s knack for showing us how extraordinary the ordinary really is. Look at the world around you. Be amazed. Be thankful you’re a part of it. Be oh so thankful…

But lest you think this is some sort of fuzzy-brained sentimentalist cakewalk, rest assured  – it’s nothing of the sort. Childlike? Yes. Childish? Not on your life. Wilson may write with the whimsy of A.A. Milne, but he has the sharp-edged theological insight of a surgeon’s scalpel. He’ll nick you; more likely than not, he’ll slice you right open. But like every good surgeon, he won’t leave you that way; and when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you went under his knife.

The quality of writing throughout is top-notch. Actually, it’s several notches above top-notch. High praise, I know, but well deserved. It’s engaging, poignant, funny, and profound. You’ll laugh, you’ll pump your fist, and you’ll probably tear up (I did). You’ll find wordcraft in this book as enjoyable as anything found in a novel.

You’ll also find a veritable treasure trove of imaginative metaphors. As Tony Reinke observed, “Readers who seek a literary buzz of metaphorical intoxication will find it hard to put this book down, and once they do, may find it impossible to touch their nose with their fingertips.”

Be warned: Notes is also highly quotable. You’ll have to pick and choose, though, because you can’t bloody well highlight the whole book. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows. (p. 157)

If, by some chance, you are still unconvinced that this is a must-read, then I fear there is little hope for you.

I was asked to give this book a star rating. Five stars is generally the highest, but I’m going to break the rules and give this one six. Anything less just wouldn’t do it justice.

Finally, be sure to enter Josh’s giveaway if you’re interested in winning a copy of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl for your own bookshelf!

Even Racists Taste Good in Casserole

“Of course, the nonexistence of God is nothing more than a nonsense option. The categories of good and evil themselves require some sort of transcendent standard. What makes things good? What makes things evil? Atheists have, by and large, given up on the idea of an absolute standard of morality. After all, spiritual emptiness and the non-existence of anything outside of the simple material universe is no way to come up with an ethical system. Morality is a cultural preference (which cannot be said to be right or wrong) and fundamentally relative. It takes on (to be generous) the same authority as Wisconsin speed limits on a Nevada highway at night.

People are raped in this world, and rape is evil. Because evil exists, there must be no God. Because there is no God – no authoritative standard over creation – the badness of rape downgrades to a mere matter of societal taste. Ethnic cuisine, ethnic ethics. In God’s absence rape is no longer fundamentally evil. In our country, you’ll get confined to a cell (if caught and convicted). But that just means we enforce our taste, not that our taste has any real authority over anyone else. In other societies, girls have been passed around and traded like baseball cards. Is that right? Is that wrong? Neither. You like exploitation; I like apple pie. The two discussions exist on the same plane. There’s no such thing as moral or immoral. In our country, we eat gyros. In this one, we eat pizza. And we’ll give you a ticket for jaywalking.

Stunning. Such wisdom is like a kiss on the lips.

To quote one contemporary prophet: ‘You and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do like they do on the Discovery Channel.’

I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve enjoyed the Discovery Channel. But in that world, if I want to reproduce with you (or tear you limb from limb), I just need to be bigger and stronger than you are. You look pretty small and a little sickly. Shall I feed you to my young? Why not? Cannibalism might not be condoned in your culture, but it has been a long and storied tradition in mine. Are you saying your culture is superior, that it is somehow right while mine is wrong? You’re being a racist, but luckily you’re still small, and even racists taste good in casserole.”

~ N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl (pp. 72-73)

A Fourth Option, Mr. Harris

Sam Harris:

Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes, or He doesn’t care to, or He doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

Or maybe there’s a fourth option, Mr. Harris.

Maybe God is neither impotent, nor evil, nor non-existant. Maybe He is, in fact, GOD: wholly sovereign, wholly wise, wholly good. Not subject to your whims and wishes. Not dangling on a string from your finger. Not concerned with what you think is “fair” or “unfair,” “right” or “wrong.”

Maybe He is, in fact, working all things (yes, Mr. Harris, even catastrophes) for His glory. Maybe He moves as He pleases and does what He pleases because He is the infallible architect of a Greater Good which you, in all your fallible human wisdom, cannot see or understand.

Maybe. Just maybe. And if so…

Who are you, Sam Harris, to reply against God? Who are you to call Him to account? Must He consult you on the “fairness” of His actions? Are you, O creature, wiser than your Creator? Will you judge the Judge? Will you dictate morality to the One in whom morality has its very existence?

God is not on trial here, Mr. Harris. He never was. He doesn’t answer to you, or to me, or to anyone or anything. He wouldn’t be God if He did.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isa. 45:7)