The Atheist’s Shallow Worldview


engineers-scales-335147-mRecently in a discussion with some atheists, I asked, if all life descended from a common source as many evolutionists claim, why do atheists care for humans more than for other species?

The exchange stemmed from the oft-used assault on God based on the lack of prohibition against slavery in the Ten Commandments. Why, I asked, were atheists so intent on human rights but not on animal rights (though a growing number are moving in that direction). Now that I understand this common descent theory, I would expect those who hold to it to follow the logically consistent position that all life was worth fighting for or that no life was worth fighting for. But to advocate for human rights over and above animals seems inconsistent.

The answer I received was that there’s species identification—we treat those like us more favorably.

Of course other names for “species identification” would be prejudice, partiality, favoritism, bigotry, intolerance. I mean, if it’s OK to identify favorably and advocate for one species over the others, then why not do the same for one gender over the other, for one race over the others, one religion over the others, one language, one ethnicity, one hair color or eye color or height or weight or favorite sports team? 😉

In fact, it seems few atheists think past their assertions to the logical next step or subsequent consequences of their worldview.

In truth what ground do atheists have for ethical living? Why, from their perspective, is pedophilia wrong or murder or rape or car jacking or terrorist attacks? One atheist says the “human community decides,” but on what basis? If more people, or more powerful people, want to have sex with children, than want to protect children from abuse, would the “human community” simply change the laws as if wrong has become right? This is precisely what the movement to change the definition of marriage is doing.

Atheists apparently see nothing wrong with such a moving scale of right and wrong (unless, I suppose, the scale should move to a point where atheism was a crime). Rather, the moral imperative is simply the will of the people (or of the powerful people). This position reflects what life is like without God. There is no authoritative standard and ultimately we descend into caveman thing: might makes right.

What else is there? Self-sacrifice for others becomes a foolish act if this life is all there is. Why give to the needy instead of hoarding all we can get? After all, survival of the fittest should prevail.

And yet, there are impressively generous atheists who seem to derive some pleasure in thinking of others and not just themselves. How does that fit with their worldview?

There’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and yet almost unanimously all peoples would stop to help a crying child, give directions to a stranger, thank the man who changes a tire deep in the American desert.

The atheist can’t explain the compunction to do what is right. They don’t believe that humans have been made in God’s image.

At the same time, they have no answer for why an atheist would gun down three Muslim students or curse Christians at every opportunity or act in other hateful ways. They don’t believe humans have a sin nature.

In essence, atheists can only go skin deep because that’s where science stops. It doesn’t examine the intents of the heart. What can atheists say about the basic philosophical questions of human existence: who am I, why am I here, where am I going, what is truth, how do I know what is right and wrong (and where did the sense that there is a right and wrong come from)?

The answers I’ve heard are these: humans are a product of chance and evolution, without purpose, ending at death (therefore going nowhere); and truth, like right and wrong, is whatever you make it to be. In that shallow, simplistic worldview, there’s no explanation for the self-sacrifice of a Jim Elliott or for the forgiveness of a Corrie ten Boom or for the selfless service of a Katie Davis. No. The best atheists can can do is rail at the God they say does not exist.

He, on the other hand, extends grace and mercy to whoever believes.

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Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm  Comments (31)  
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Promoting And Platforms


empty_stageI’ve been thinking about loving your neighbor, mostly because I was reading Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, but in the writing world, I’ve come across more and more talk about getting noticed. Somehow a book needs to stand out in the crowd. And believe me, with the ease of self-publishing, the crowd is growing.

These two concepts seem antithetical. I mean, with people in so much need around the world, I’m supposed to concern myself with … ME?

Not to mention that a couple situations of what I’ll call overly zealous advertisement–which is the euphemistic way of saying “spam”–I suggested in a Facebook update that unfriending/unfollowing the perpetrator might be the only answer. I was gratified to see that a good number of others agreed–not so much about severing ties as the solution, but about spamming others in the name of promotion being a problem.

Yet I understand where these aggressive promoters are coming from. They read articles that say they need a platform, the publishers are no longer looking at number of blog followers or even Facebook friends, but at Klout scores. They read other articles that say having a platform isn’t enough on its own. You have to hold contests and bring people together into teams, do book give-aways and participate in blog tours. Promotion. It’s part of the book business, whether a person is self- or traditionally-published.

But in the back of my mind, I hear a quiet voice whispering, But I want you to love your neighbor.

There really are only so many hours in the day to do all we need to do. How’s someone with a day job, a writing career, a family, and church responsibilities supposed to add in promotion . . . and loving that needy neighbor?

I don’t have an answer on the promotion part yet. I figured I didn’t need to face that one until I actually have a book that needs to be promoted. But the loving my neighbor seems to be the larger, more pressing, and urgent task.

And yet, it also seems as if I may be overlooking the obvious. It came to me today as I listened to a tribute on the radio program Family Life Today for Dr. Howard Hendricks, former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who passed away this week.

He taught for sixty years and continued to mentor seminary students even after his retirement. But what difference was he making in the lives of widows and orphans and strangers? How was he reaching the unreached with the good news of God’s good and free gift of His Son? In short, how was he delivering the cup of cold water or feeding the hungry or visiting the sick or imprisoned–the things Jesus said would be like doing those needful things for Him?

I have to believe that all the students–thousands and thousands, many of them in positions of leadership–who Dr. Hendricks taught may have learned from him the importance of loving their neighbor. His role, then was to love them by giving them not just a cup of cold water, but the whole well–or more accurately, the means by with they could go out and dig the well themselves.

And what about the rest of us who aren’t seminary professors? What about writers who are jammed up with edits and dirty dishes and stacks of laundry and grocery shopping and taxes and birthday parties? And promotion?

I think we’re simply to love the person in front of us. Whoever that might be. Whatever he might need.

Loving our neighbor isn’t going to look the same to each person. We’re not all going to travel half-way around the world to find a needy someone to love.

And the needy God puts in our path may not need medical care or bus fare or escape from an abuser. They might. But they might need someone to listen. Someone to cry with. Or even someone to sit beside. They might simply need us to stop talking about our book long enough for them to be noticed.

The Best Defense


KissesFromKatie cover“The best defense is a good offense” sports pundits say, but either parents don’t believe it or they don’t think it applies to raising their children.

Of late I’ve seen two general styles of parenting. One is protective and the other permissive. I suspect most parents are tempted to be permissive. Nobody likes to say no to a beautiful little child you love with all your heart. But some choose to be protective instead.

Permissive parents seem to believe in the Humankind-is-good idea so prevalent in Western society. They want to encourage their children, nurture them, educate them, and let them know they can do whatever they put their minds to.

The problem, of course, with this approach is that children can not do whatever they put their minds to. No matter how much they want to be butterflies, they aren’t going to become butterflies. No matter how much they want to be like LeBron or Kobe, they (most of them, anyway) aren’t going to become the next great NBA basketball player. Nothing wrong with trying hard and doing your best, but why lie to kids and give them false expectations?

Besides, giving kids their head puts them in danger. They can try things they’re curious about that will become addictions or involve themselves with people who want to use or abuse them. They themselves might even become the one who bullies or who abandons (after all, life is, they’ve been taught, all about what they want).

Parents who take the protective route tend to be the ones who see Humankind as sinful by nature. Hence, there is much to protect children from–the stranger, the kid next door, his liberal teacher, his ungodly classmates, shysters selling things outside grocery stores, the homeless, frauds coming to your door selling things, people of a different religion, from a different part of town, who speak a different language, who vote differently. The list is endless, and the means by which these parents try to protect their children can be exhausting.

Interestingly, the Bible gives lots of advice to parents, none particularly aligned with either the permissive or protective approach. Here’s one key passage, originally written by Solomon to his son.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways
(Proverbs 2:6-15a – emphasis mine)

Notice, this passage says God is the one who will protect our kids. He gives wisdom, is a shield, and preserves their way. At some point then, after being infused with God’s wisdom, kids can discern which way to go. They’ll know what they need to know about justice and righteousness, and that knowledge will protect them against those who would harm them.

The perfect example of this kind of God protection is Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie. I don’t know how her parents raised her except for the fact that I see the outcome. At eighteen, Katie left her comfortable home in Tennessee and went to Uganda to teach. After a short time she began adopting children, decided to stay in Uganda, and started a ministry called Amazima to provide the means for children to get an education.

Clearly, she was not acting like a child who had been protected from all that could be dangerous. She faced the dangerous every day–people with TB, who had ringworm, were HIV-positive, had infections and open sores. She dealt with rats and cockroaches and malaria-carrying mosquitoes. She was a single white woman, a teenager, who didn’t speak the local language, and yet she simply went about showing people the love of Jesus by loving them herself.

Why would she? How could she? Here’s how she explained it:

Jesus wrecked my life. For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. But I loved Jesus.

And the fact that I loved Jesus was beginning to interfere with the plans I once had for my life and certainly with the plans others had for me. My heart had been apprehended by a great love, a love that compelled me to live differently.

Katie went on to explain that at twelve or thirteen she began to “delve into the truths of Scripture.” In short she turned to God for wisdom and found “knowledge and understanding.” She knew well before the adults in her life that she didn’t have to protect herself or rely on the protection her parents could provide. Instead, she could travel half-way around the world and live with and love people who knew poverty and deprivation that most in the Western world can’t even imagine. And she could trust that God would shield her and preserve her way.

So maybe there’s a third way for parents to raise kids–putting them on the offensive. If children learn early that God is the source of wisdom, that He is their shield, that He will preserve their way, then they can disarm people with love and fill them with truth.

We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands.
― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

Published in: on February 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments Off on The Best Defense  
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Platforms And Purpose


I’ve been thinking a bit about God’s work in and through His people. Of course I apply this to writing, but the illustrations I’m going to share demonstrate my conclusions are not limited to that profession at all. I explain this because “platform” seems like a writing-specific term. No teacher is asked what her platform is. I doubt if plumbers face that question either. Would-be politicians might.

A platform refers to the number of people whose attention an individual commands. The American Idol contestants, for instance, have a small platform until they reach the finals of the contest. Suddenly they have millions of people watching them perform (and remembering their name and voting to keep them around). That’s why the judges so often console someone who is leaving the show — they know the platform that contestant gained, the attention and following, will reap benefits even for the “losers.”

So I’m thinking of two twenty-somethings who each have a book about their life. Who in the world would think someone so young would have a big enough platform to sell books, let alone have something worthwhile to say when they have lived life as an adult for such a short time? And there are two of them?

One of these individuals is Tim Tebow and the other is Katie Davis. Oh, you might think, of course, Tim Tebow (Through My Eyes, Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker, Harper). He’s a big-name athlete. Make that BIG Name Athlete. I saw it again on the news last night after the Denver Broncos scintillating victory in overtime — a news anchor saying that Tim Tebow was The Most Talked About Athlete of the year (the implication was, last year). Not the Cy Young Award winners, not the Heisman Trophy winner, not the NBA MVP. Tim Tebow.

But what about Katie Davis (Kisses From Katie, Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark, Howard Books)? In fact who is Katie Davis? I’ve mentioned her here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction before. She is the young single girl who went to Uganda for a short term mission. She returned to the US and attended college for a semester because she’d promised her parents that’s what she’d do, but then, not yet twenty, she left for Africa again to work with children — the most vulnerable and needy. After starting out teaching, she focused her work on orphans. In fact she has become the foster/adoptive Mom of thirteen girls. She’s also started a ministry (Amazima Ministries) that provides support for poor children so they can attend school and can receive nourishing meals. In addition there’s a program for moms who struggle alone to care for their children.

Katie does not have hundreds of thousands of people watching the way she changes diapers or nurses the latest scrapes or tucks her daughters into bed. Her platform isn’t Tebow-sized. But one look at the pictures of her children, and there’s no doubt that she’s serving a purpose that is eternal.

Tim’s platform, interestingly, allows him to participate in eternal purposes, too. This missionary kid has a heart for missions still and has also started his own ministry — The Tim Tebow Foundation “to bring physical and spiritual healing to the world’s poorest children.”

What do I learn from these two young committed Christians? So much. They are both inspiring in their own ways. But beyond that, I see God doing marvelous things, with Katie’s thousands and Tim’s ten thousands. The size of the platform does not dictate the value of the ministry or reduce the importance of the purpose God has given to each of them.

I feel as if Tim is oblivious to the numbers of people following him, talking about him, and Katie, when she mentions the growth of the attention she’s receiving, it’s with fear and trepidation. Instead of focusing on the size of their platform, it seems both of them are riveted on their purpose — to please Jesus — and they then let Him decide just how big their platform should be.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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