XFiles: The Faith, by Chuck Colson

(Book: The Faith, by Chuck Colson.)

I have a couple more substantial books coming in, but in the meantime I thought I’d take a quick look at Chuck Colson’s book The Faith. As some of you may recall, I bought this book in response to a request from a publicist at Zondervans, who invited me to submit questions to Colson, which the latter promised to respond to publicly in his blog. I sent him two rather simple ones (I thought), and never heard from him again. Go figure. So now I’ve got the book, and I’ve got a gap in the XFiles series, so it seems like it must be God’s will for me to review it now.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest ultra-condensed summary: What do Christian’s believe? A curious mixture of evangelical pop theology and contemporary conservative politics (what Colson calls “social holiness”). Why do Christians believe? Because great Christians demonstrate the power of God by the way they fearlessly face persecution and death for their beliefs. Why does it matter? Because if Christians don’t jump up and vote Republican every time Karl Rove says “family values,” they might end up following the example of the great Christians, and frankly that scares the shit out of them. The Church may love martyrs, but they love them best when they’re someone else.

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XFiles: The surprise ending

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, Appendix 1.)

We’re just about done with Geisler and Turek’s attempt to deal with the existence of evil and the problems this poses for their allegedly all-good, all-wise and all-powerful god. And, in a bit of a surprise twist at the end, it turns out that the unbeliever actually wins this one. The Christian runs out of answers, admits that his “explanations” don’t really do the job, and ends up encouraging the atheist to just have faith. Great way to end a book called I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, eh?

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A White Christian Nation

As President Obama once remarked, America is not a Christian nation, or at least not just a Christian nation. It’s probably his most-quoted statement (although his quoters tend to have a curious inability to report the “not just a Christian nation” part). It offended a lot of people, even though it’s factually true. There are indeed non-Christians living in America, and since America is a democratic republic, non-Christians do have a significant say in what the country’s values, priorities, and policies are. A simple and even uncontroversial fact—but some people don’t want to hear it. To them, America is a Christian nation, and any attempt to say otherwise is an attack on the Christian faith.

How can we help such people understand why America is not (and does not want to be) a Christian nation? The other day I though of a parallel that might be helpful: calling America a “Christian Nation” is like calling America a “White Nation.” Yes, there were quite a lot of Founding Fathers who espoused at least vaguely Christian rhetoric, just as there were quite a few who owned slaves. And yes, you can find a lot of early American policies and precedents that favored Christianity, just as you can find a lot that favored white men. And you can even argue that, by “freedom of religion,” the Fathers meant being free to choose whatever flavor of Christianity you like best, just as you can argue that when a slave owner like Thomas Jefferson writes “all men are created equal,” he really means only that all white males are equal, and not that women and/or other races are also equal.

If you’re a white supremacist, you may not see anything wrong with doing any of the above. If you’re a Christian supremacist, then you may see a problem only with the “White Nation” arguments (even though they’re the same as your own, slightly re-framed). And that’s the point. The Christian Nation arguments are Christian Supremacist arguments. They’re a bigoted demand that your religion be publicly and officially acknowledged as supreme above all other religions, just as white supremacists demand that whites be held superior to all other races. And that’s why sensible and fair-minded men and women should oppose all efforts to turn America into the kind of Christian nation that our Founding Fathers came here to get away from.

 
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XFiles Friday: the best of all possible worlds

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, Appendix 1.)

We’re watching a kind of textual cartoon in which Geisler and Turek have a straw-man atheist (Mr. Straw) grilling a Christian (Dr. Geistur) on the question of evil. So far, the atheist seems to be giving the Christian a pretty hard time, and the Christian, despite his smug and triumphant tone, is floundering.

It goes no better for the Christian when Mr. Straw asks why God created people knowing that so many of them would end up eternally damned in Hell.

GEISTUR: Good question. There are only five options God had. He could have: 1) not created at all; 2) created a non-free world of robots; 3) created a free world where we would not sin; 4) created a free world where we would sin, but everyone would accept God’s salvation; or 5) created the world we have now—a world where we would sin, and some would be saved but the rest would be lost.

Or at least, those are the only 5 options Geisler and Turek could think of, so naturally an all-wise and all-knowing God would be incapable of finding or creating a sixth alternative. Right?

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XFiles: Too many holes

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, Appendix 1.)

I remember watching a cartoon, long ago, where the rabbit was visiting Holland, and happened to spot a hole in the dike. Naturally, he stuck his finger in it to plug it. Well, you can guess the rest. No sooner does he plug one hole than the dike springs another leak. Soon he’s plastered himself to the wall, using fingers, toes, and even his long rabbit ears to plug all the leaks, and then even more leaks break out. He can’t plug the new ones without taking his fingers out of the old ones. You just know this isn’t going to end well for the poor rabbit!

I don’t know what sort of expression was on the faces of Geisler and Turek as they wrote their appendix on the problem of evil, but the more I read it, the more I think they must have had the same intense look of inventive desperation as that cartoon rabbit had. Every time they turn around, their rationalizations have new holes, and they’re running out of fingers to try and plug them all with. The best solution—replace the shoddy structure with a sound and solid one—isn’t available to them. Instead of taking a consistent, cohesive approach, they must resort to an erratic and hyperactive succession of sound-bite rationalizations, hoping to save the day by jumping from leak to leak fast enough to stop the flow of disaster. It doesn’t actually work, but at least they can feel good about how busy they are.

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