Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/5/14 – (Former A)Theist Antony Flew on Islam

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.

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Some quotes are more informative than others…

Antony Flew was one of the most prominent and influential atheistic philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st century, that is until he became a theist based on the evidence of design in the cosmos and in living things. In an article entitled My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism, an interview of Flew conducted by Gary Habermas, Habermas interviewed Flew about his transition to theism. It’s a very interesting read. What particularly grabbed me in the article was some of Flew’s commentary on Islam, in contrast with Christianity, and here I will present some of his thoughts. Please note, the quotes below are not necessarily contiguous. Read the article for context!

As for Islam, it is, I think, best described in a Marxian way as the uniting and justifying ideology of Arab imperialism. Between the New Testament and the Qur’an there is (as it is customary to say when making such comparisons) no comparison. Whereas markets can be found for books on reading the Bible as literature, to read the Qur’an is a penance rather than a pleasure. There is no order or development in its subject matter. All the chapters (the suras) are arranged in order of their length, with the longest at the beginning. However, since the Qur’an consists in a collection of bits and pieces of putative revelation delivered to the prophet Mohammad by the Archangel Gabriel in classical Arab on many separate but unknown occasions, it is difficult to suggest any superior principle of organization.

Whereas St. Paul, who was the chief contributor to the New Testament, knew all the three relevant languages and obviously possessed a first class philosophical mind, the Prophet, though gifted in the arts of persuasion and clearly a considerable military leader, was both doubtfully literate and certainly ill-informed about the contents of the Old Testament and about several matters of which God, if not even the least informed of the Prophet’s contemporaries, must have been cognizant.

This raises the possibility of what my philosophical contemporaries in the heyday of Gilbert Ryle would have described as a knock-down falsification of Islam: something which is most certainly not possible in the case of Christianity.  If I do eventually produce such a paper it will obviously have to be published anonymously. [emphasis mine]

The Bible is a work which someone who had not the slightest concern about the question of the truth or falsity of the Christian religion could read as people read the novels of the best novelists. It is an eminently readable book.

Well, one thing I’ll say in this comparison is that, for goodness sake, Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.

I tried to read the Qur’an once. I understand Flew’s perspective on its composition. The whole article is fascinating and I recommend it. Anyone care to take a stab at the bolded comment?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Post-publication edit: Although the title of my article, and the title of the original article, refer to Antony Flew as a “theist”, he was actually a “deist.” This distinction is addressed in the linked interview. Please forgive me if it seems I was trying to trick anyone. Thank you.

Previous “Quick Quotes”:

 Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9-1-14

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Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

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Jesus? Is that you?

The similarities claimed to exist include ” born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded. He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water.” According to which site you visit, there may be even more similarities listed. As I discussed in my last post, many other mythological figures have been credited with some of these same similarities, including Mithras, Krishna, Attis, Dionysis, and many others.

Now, as discussed in the last article, if in fact these similarities were to be accurate, that obviously does not preclude the existence of the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, one would actually expect to find at least some similarities when dealing with supernatural deific beings. For instance, one would expect a god to be able to supersede and rule over nature (i.e. perform miracles). A god would be able to rule over death. A god would be mentally superior to men, and seem to be all-knowing. A god who lived among men would draw men (disciples) to him. So we see that these types of similarities, if they existed, would be expected.

On the birthday claim: Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus’s birth date mentioned. The date was chosen by emperor Aurelian in the third century. In fact many believe, because of evidences offered in the Bible surrounding the account of Jesus’s birth, that he was not born in the winter time, but that’s a different subject. The point is, a claim of being born on December 25th (or at the winter solstice) simply seems to be suspiciously convenient, especially once the claims are more closely scrutinized.

When one looks more closely, at books and web sites that are dedicated to scholarship and not tearing down the Christian faith, a different picture emerges. For instance, the “Tour Egypt” website:

We offer scholarly articles on historical as well as contemporary issues and we are always looking to renovate our services to live up to the expectations of our millions of visitors.

Their account of Horus seems to be very different from the ones presented at those other websites that seem to have an agenda. There is no mention of any of those similarities I mentioned above. Indeed, when you read the article offered at the “Tour Egypt” web site, you would be hard pressed to find many similarities at all between the falcon deity Horus and Jesus of Nazareth.

In an effort to avoid the accusation of cherry-picking web sites that “agree with my agenda”, I will list two more sites that are more scholarly in nature and “agendaless”:

Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus

Ancient Egypt Online: Horus

It seems an honest look at the evidence would lead the unbiased observer to admit that there are not really that many similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth after all. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not personally tracked down every single claim made about the supposed similarities that exist between Jesus and these other mythological figures. However, I have seen enough evidence on the few I have bothered to check, and read work by others who have done the “heavy lifting” and really run these claims to the ground, that these similarity claims are, to put it in a southern vernacular, hogwash. It almost seems as if these things have been made up purely to discredit the four independent eyewitness testimonies about the life of Jesus of Nazareth contained in the Bible as a case of mythological plagiarism. Surely no one would purposely just make stuff up just to do that though…. would they?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Was the Sinking of the Titanic a Copycat Myth?

In 1898 a novella, “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan”, was published. The story contains many eerie similarities with the actual story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, fourteen years later!

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“Futility” was written before the Titanic was even designed, yet the similarities are uncanny. For instance, The names of the ships were synonymous: Titan, Titanic. Both ships sank in April in the North Atlantic. There were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. The Titan was 800′ long and the Titanic was 882’9″ long. The Titan sailed at a speed of 25 knots, the Titanic 22.5 knots.

And That’s not all! Both ships had three propellers. Both were described as unsinkable. Both carried less than half the amount of lifeboats needed for their passenger and crew capacity. Both hit an iceberg 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland. Both sank, and lost more than half of their passengers: 2200 from the Titanic and 2500 from the Titan. (Source:  Wikipedia )

Now, I’ve said all that to say this: does the fact that a fictional book written before the actual historical account have any bearing on the fact that the actual account happened, regardless of the multitude of similarities between the fictional account and the actual account? The obvious answer is no, of course not, not even a little bit.

Did you know about the amazing similarities between  Abraham Lincoln and John Franklin Kennedy? It boggles the mind, really, that the two men who lived a century apart had so much in common. The question is, do the similarities between the two in any way discount the facts surrounding the life and work of either man? No, of course not.

Let me tell you about someone else. This individual was born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded.  He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcised demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water. I could keep going but you probably know who I am talking about already. That’s right-  Horus!

You thought I was talking about Jesus didn’t you? The linked website, and others, make the claim of these similarities between Horus and Jesus. These claims were also made in the movie “Zeitgeist” (available on the internet) and in a book written by Achyrya S. (D.M. Murdock) called The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. Similar claims are made of other mythological deities including Dionysus, Krishna, Mithras, and many others.

This article’s purpose is not to contest the claims made about these similarities (that will be addressed in the next blog post). Here’s my point: CS Lewis once famously said, “…you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.” In other words, you have to start with the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, and show that the historical accounts are false, before you can make the case that the similarities shared by the account of Jesus and these mythological deities have any bearing on the subject. Just as the book Futility, written fourteen years prior, in no way negates the historical fact of the sinking of the Titanic, and the fact that Abraham Lincoln lived 100 years prior to JFK in no way negates the historical fact of the existence and presidency of JFK, the similarities between Jesus of Nazareth and these mythological deities have no bearing on the historical fact of Jesus’s existence.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Is Christianity Opposed to Science?

The claim has been made, in recent years, that the Christian faith stands in opposition to the scientific enterprise. Christians are labeled as “science deniers”, among other things. Is this historically accurate?

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Are Christianity and Science necessarily opposed?

First, I would like to make an acknowledgement. There are those who hold a Christian worldview who have no inclination to learn anything about science, those who are ignorant of science, and those who are skeptical of or refute the claims made by science. However, the same can be said of people who ascribe to any other worldview, whether that worldview affirms any particular religion or no religion. This fact in itself does not render any particular worldview more valid than any other. We must assess each particular worldview on the strengths of its particular truth claims, and not on the variability of those who hold it.

As I have stated in previous articles, I like science. I know many other Christians who do as well. In fact, many of those most theologically knowledgeable among my denomination hold degrees in science and engineering. I do however, firmly believe that some scientists draw unreasonable conclusions from their collected data. For instance, climate science seems to be particularly susceptible to this. Consider the following article:  Over 4.5 Billion people could die from Global Warming-related causes by 2012 This article was first published in 2007, and is just one of many examples of climate alarmism caused by overblown conclusions reached by scientists interpreting limited data. So we see that some degree of skepticism about scientific claims seems to be justified.

However, I firmly believe that science (and here I mean that process by which scientists collect their data, the  Scientific Method) and Christianity are not only compatible but are complimentary. Thankfully, I am not alone in this belief. Many of the great scientific pioneers of history were motivated to learn more about God’s creation by their Christian worldview and not in spite of it. Take a moment to read how, in their own words, their Christianity inspired their thirst for knowledge.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the “father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the Father of Modern Science”. He was one major individuals that caused astronomers to shift to a heliocentric (the earth revolves around the sun) view of the galaxy. Galileo once said:

“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician (described in his own day as a “natural philosopher”) who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics and shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the invention of calculus. He also  formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, which dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries, and Newtonian physics are still used today in designing air and spacecraft. Newton once said:

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; … He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space.”

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method. Pascal once said:

“The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths or of the order of the elements; that is the view of heathens and Epicureans. He is not merely a God who exercises His providence over the life and fortunes of men, to bestow on those who worship Him a long and happy life. That was the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of Christians, is a God of love and of comfort, a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom He possesses, a God who makes them conscious of their inward wretchedness, and his infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost soul, who fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, who renders them incapable of any other end than Himself.”

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics” after the first one realized by Isaac Newton. Maxwell once said:

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory above the heavens, and out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast perfected praise. When we consider Thy heavens and the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou has ordained, teach us to know that Thou art mindful of us, and visitest us, making us rulers over the works of Thy hands, showing us the wisdom of Thy laws, and crowning us with honour and glory in our earthy life; and looking higher than the heavens, we may see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.”

There are others who could be quoted (Kelvin, Kepler, Bacon, Carver, Copernicus, and MANY more) but I think you get the picture. These fathers of science never saw the scientific enterprise as an enemy, but as a way to find out more about God’s creation. As Christians, we should not be afraid of science properly applied, and we should be vigilant to recognize when science oversteps its bounds ( 1 Timothy 6:20).

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

(Note: the historical facts and quotes stated here are common public knowledge and widely available on many different websites and in many different books. Feel free to investigate these facts for yourself.)

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