Monday, October 10, 2005

Bible Soundbites

The UK Guardian Newspaper asked its readers to summarize the Bible in 100 words. Much of the comment was scurrilous and mocking. I submitted two entries. One was an attempt to sum up the message of the Bible in a brief soundbite. The other was an ironic summary of the "Secularist bible".

A summary of the Bible

The Bible reveals a God of love, power and purity, the creator of all things. Human beings were made in the image of God, but rebelled against Him by breaking his command. This brought sin, death and suffering into the Universe. God's Son, Jesus came to deal with sin. To put us right with God, He became man and died for us. God then raised him from the grave and exalted him to heaven. All people will give an account of their lives to God. To enjoy eternal life and avoid condemnation, we must trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

A summary of the secularist "bible".

In the beginning there was nothing. Then lots of random stuff happened. Why? Who cares! As if by magic, randomly produced simple organisms, decided to become more complex and interesting. Eventually fish, reptiles, birds and mammals just happened. Why? Who cares! Then human beings randomly happened. What's the point in that? We started as nothing, life means nothing then we go back to being nothing. If human life means nothing, then love means nothing, neither does truth or other good stuff. Ah well, who cares? Let us eat (until we get obese), drink (until we drop) and be meaningless for tomorrow we die! Fair summary?

14 comments:

P O'Neill said...

Both are remarkably accurate!

Will said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Will said...

In the beginning there was nothing. Then lots of random stuff happened. Why? Who cares! As if by magic, randomly produced simple organisms, decided to become more complex and interesting. Eventually fish, reptiles, birds and mammals just happened. Why? Who cares! Then human beings randomly happened. What's the point in that? We started as nothing, life means nothing then we go back to being nothing. If human life means nothing, then love means nothing, neither does truth or other good stuff. Ah well, who cares? Let us eat (until we get obese), drink (until we drop) and be meaningless for tomorrow we die! Fair summary?

"Fair summary?" In point of fact, no. Quite aside from the scurrilous technique of comparing the accumulated scientific and ethical wisdom of mankind to a pornographic and insane book, your summary falls apart at the merest comparison with genuine secular philosophies.

"In the beginning there was nothing." On the contrary, science indicates that in the beginning there was an immensely compact ball of energy which later exploded in the big bang. We don't why it existed. But we'd like to find out!

"Then lots of random stuff happened. Why? Who cares!" Why, I care! Scientists care! Finding out why "stuff happens" is the goal of science -- a goal religion doesn't bring us any closer to.

"As if by magic, randomly produced simple organisms, decided to become more complex and interesting." There was no question of organisms "deciding" to become more complex. They were forced into it by the unyielding competition of their neighbours. If they had "decided" to remain uncompetitive, they would have gone extinct. Note that not all organisms face the same selection pressures, and some have found a good living for themselves by staying simple. Yet others became steadily more complex, and gained a reproductive advantage.

"We started as nothing, life means nothing then we go back to being nothing. If human life means nothing, then love means nothing, neither does truth or other good stuff." Nope. We certainly are on a brief sabbatical from nothingness, but that doesn't mean we oughtn't to enjoy it. Truth still exists -- there are facts about the world, and our verbal statement can either mirror their structure or not. Love exists -- it is an emotion we feel for each other, part of our evolutionary endowment.

"Let us eat (until we get obese), drink (until we drop) and be meaningless for tomorrow we die!" If that's what makes you happy. However, Epicurus long ago advised us to abstain from transitory pleasures, for they minimize our appetites and our welfare in the long run. Why not seek after truth and beauty -- and dare I say love? They may not be eternal, but they do have a longer shelf life than food, money, and sex -- all goods in their own right, in the right proportions.

All these things exist whether God wants them there or not. Or whether he is there or not. Can God alter the facts of mathematics? Can he update the laws of logic? Can he command us to murder, and cruelty, and treachery, and have it be called righteousness? I think not.

Hallq said...

You forgot the part about God ordering the Israelis to kill babies. But otherwise, good summary.

Morgaine said...

I'm considered a "theist" in this process, though technically I'm a "theast." At any rate, I do think there are some flaws in your descriptions. I particularly want to point out that science doesn't consider the order of the universe to be random anymore. Chaos Theory shows that there is, indeed, a pattern to existence. I would think a theist could use that to describe God's method of creation, but none I've discussed it with consider the idea that randomness is an illusion to be pro-deity.

Exiled Preacher said...

The first thing to say about my "Summary of the secularist bible" is that it was a piece of satire. In the UK Guardian's blog atheists took it upon themselves to satirise the Bible so I wrote my summary of their "bible" with heavy irony.

Secondly, we have a saying "many a true word spoken in jest" and I hope that there was a serious point to what I said.

The atheist view of the Universe assumes that everying was created from nothing by random unguided processes. Even Will's "immensely compact ball of energy which later exploded in the big bang" must have started to exist at some point. Where did it come from? If life is a random event then it is meaningless.

If we start with the Christian presupposition that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", then order,purpose and design in the Universe make perfect sense.

The Christian message offers us a hope and a future through the work of Jesus Christ. What does atheism have to offer?

12:36 AM

Gribble The Munchkin said...

Some good questions there. Easy answers too.

Firstly "What does atheism have to offer?"
How about hope and future through our own efforts. That we can make life better for ourselves and for those we love through our own efforts and understanding.

second "If life is a random event then it is meaningless."
Not so. If an earth quake happens, doesn't mean the result is meaningless, certainly a number of folks in Kashmir don't think so at the moment and yet that was just the random swirling of magma and the shift of the earths crust.
On the contrary, with life being a prelude to a eternal afterlife, THAT is what makes life meaningless. Just tow the line, give yourself to Jebus, hurry up and die. Such a life means nothing. However, if one life is all you have and there is no pre-given purpose then you can make of it what you will. Your actions will have real meaning here and now.

Exiled Preacher said...

Mr Munchkin, may I quote Mr Dawkins? It's my blog so I'm going to anyway! He is writing about the kind of world that would exist without a Creator:

"Such a universe would be neither good or bad in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precicely the properties that we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, but blind, pitiless indifference."
Cited in "Does God believe in Atheists" by John Blanchard, from an article by Dawkins in the UK Daily Telegraph 10 May 1995.

In a random purposeless universe an earthquake, an outbreak of deadly disease or a fatal road accident are totally without meaning and significance.

The life I live in the present world as a Christian is far from meaningless. My Father God made this world. In his goodness he has packed life on earth with wonderful sights, sounds and experiences. I know that even life's tragedies are not expressions of blind pitiless indifference. They are in the providence of God "who works all things together for good for those who love him" (Romans 8:28.) Knowing the God who made the universe gives life rich meaning and purpose.

The Christian view future eternal glory is not a negation of this life. Our future hope is not to leave this physical world for an eternal spiritual state, but to be raised from the dead for life in a renewed creation.

This hope is not based on some speculative theory, but on the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

See my blog article: http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2005/10/faith-reason-and-resurrection-new.html

dear belivers said...

Exiled Preacher,
"Such a universe would be neither good or bad in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice."

Seems just like the one we live in with a "God".

Only the lucky get to experience " in his goodness he has packed life on earth with wonderful sights, sounds and experiences". Most everyone else puts their noses to the gridestone and makes through the day hoping that the loving "Father" will protect them from the random accidents (that God planned).
Joel

Exiled Preacher said...

What atheists fail to grasp is that we are living in a fallen world. The universe that God originally made was very good with a perfect environment and harmonious relationships between human beings. What spoiled all that was when man thought he knew best and rebelled against God. We live in a world that is bent on sinful rebellion against its Maker.

But God has not abandoned the human race to the judgement we deserve. He showers the earth with his goodness and causes the sun to shine upon believer and atheist alike. You, as an atheist are only alive to disbelieve in God because he keeps you in existence.

More than that, God so loves the people who have rebelled against him that he has sent his Son, Jesus to rescue us from sin. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers even atheists the promise of forgiveness of sin, a new life and the hope of glory.

Todd Sayre said...

The basic argument I see the theists using here is that Christianity provides a moral framework that leads to better lives and atheism offers nothing.

That’s an arguable point, until you examine the actual arguments which seem to drag in issues of the existence of God and Jesus.

Atheism isn’t the lack of a belief in the Christian moral framework (assuming they could ever agree on the particulars of one), it’s the lack of a belief in the existence of supreme beings. And before you try to say it is, it isn’t the lack of a belief in the use of moral frameworks to improve people’s lives either.

It’s like arguing that unicorns say people shouldn’t drink and drive. Aunicornism, the lack of a belief in unicorns, doesn’t offer anything. Thus unicorns are real.

Same thing goes for Leprechaunists saying that Leprechaunism is better than aleprechaunism because the Grand High Leprechaun says that spousal abuse is wrong and aleprechaunism doesn’t say anything on the issue. Thus if you agree that spousal abuse is wrong then you admit that Leprechaunism is true.

That argument is preposterous.

Those may very well be philosophical arguments so long as you leave out anything talking about the existence of supernatural parts that there is no evidence for. But those philosophical parts are evaluated completely separately from the arguments that there are supernatural forces at work behind the scenes. Atheism argues against the supernatural forces part, not the philosophical part.

Atheists are free to agree with the tenants of Christianity, Unicornism or Leprechaunism. Agreement with those tenants, however, says nothing about the supernatural enforces of said tenants.

If you are trying to “trick” atheists into agreeing with you that Christianity offers a moral framework (be it good or ill) whereas atheism does not, then you have succeeded. I, as an atheist, admit that much. But I won’t say that Christianity represents a superior moral framework than Secular Humanism or Objectivism or Judaism or Buddhism or even Unicornism or Leprechaunism.

And again, none of that has anything to do with the existence of Moses, Buddha, unicorns or leprechauns.

I have no problem donating to Christian charities (which I do) or attending Christian private schools (which I did). Charity and education are real and measurable benefits to humanity. I disagree with the parts about supernatural beings that live in the sky and impossibly contradictory origin stories that run counter to every piece of credible scientific evidence ever discovered.

The benefits of Christian moral frameworks may be measurable, but God and Jesus still aren’t.

Exiled Preacher said...

Todd,

I am a Christian not because Christianity offers me a meaningful and robust moral vision, although it does. But because I am convinced that the claims of Christianity are true. I cannot offer you any empirical proof that God exists because God is Spirit. His being is beyond empirical detection.

The problem is not lack of proof, but lack of faith. God has revealed himself to us in the world that he has made. Our human consciousness has an innate sense of God, which is why all human beings are essentially religious worshippers. We either worship the true God or idols, but we are bound to worship something. Atheism is intellectual idolatry.

The trouble is that we are sinners. Our understanding is darkened because of sin. We will never make sense of life until we repent from our sin and believe in God's revealed word. When we accept God's revealed truth concerning himself, man and our need of salvation, then everything else falls into place. Of course the cosmos is wonderfully designed - God has designed it.

Atheism offers us a bleak, empty, pointless universe that is based on the wishful thinking that we are not accountable to our Maker.

gb said...

WILL:
RE: "On the contrary, science indicates that in the beginning there was an immensely compact ball of energy which later exploded in the big bang"

The energy source of which you speak is the collective energy of all the departed souls who had wasted the here-and-now with nonsensical theological prayer. Once critical mass is achieved, an ensuing energy-to-matter explosion results which then reseeds a new universe with the prospects of yet another chance at intelligence.

Exiled Preacher said...

You really excelled yourself there, Will. The power of prayer created the Universe eh?