Friday, February 14, 2014

When Skeptics Ignore History

This guest post is by W. R. Miller.

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politican, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure--reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. --President George Washington. Washington's Farewell Address, September 17, 1796.

* * *

In a two-part series at his blog, Increasing Learning, Bill Fortenberry uncovered the usual misleading sophistry from atheist Richard Carrier, who believes Jesus never existed. The unemployed Dr. Carrier claimed it was Greek philosopher Solon, not Moses, who inspired the foundations of American government. Fortenberry responded here and here.

In response, Carrier supporter Ed Babinski tried to spin away from the charge at Fortenberry’s blog.

BABINSKI: The question for Christian apologists should not be, "Look, Carrier made an error," but, "Can we prove the divine inspiration of either the Ten Commandments or any biblical writings and laws?"

But wouldn't Babinski agree that errors should be corrected? Is he not grateful that Mr. Fortenberry exposed Carrier’s fraudulent claims? Aren’t skeptics interested in the truth? The topic of divine inspiration of Biblical laws and their influence has been addressed, and proven, in the documentation provided here.

BABINSKI: I am content with the fact that freethinkers and deists played a visible and significant role in the founding of the U.S., even in the earliest anti-slavery societies (of which Franklin and Paine, and Quakers, whom the other Christians regarded as "heretics," played significant roles),

The number of Founding Father freethinkers and deists can be counted on one hand. And they were in agreement with Christian-inspired principles. See here and here.

Benjamin Franklin? Babinski is apparently unaware of his conversion, as documented by Bill Fortenberry here.

Thomas Paine? The man who New York Evening Post, June 10, 1809 labeled as traitorous as Benedict Arnold? The man who, through the auspices of Le Bien Informé, n. 375, September 12, 1798 / 26 Fructidor. An VI, 14 fructidor, 15 fructidor, is said to have recommended an invasion of America by the French?

As for Paine's Common Sense, John Adams downplayed its importance:

    Dr. Rush put him [Paine] upon Writing on the Subject, furnished him with the Arguments which had been urged in Congress an hundred times, and gave him his title of Common Sense.
    . . .
    The third part of Common Sense which relates wholly to the Question of Independence, was clearly written and contained a tollerable Summary of the Arguments which I had been repeating again and again in Congress for nine months. But I am bold to say there is not a Fact nor a Reason stated in it, which had not been frequently urged in Congress. The Temper and Wishes of the People, supplied every thing at that time: and the Phrases, suitable for an Emigrant from New Gate, or who one who had chiefly associated with such Company, such as "The Royal Brute of England," "The Blood upon his Soul," and a few others of equal delicacy, had as much Weight with the People as his Arguments. It has been a general Opinion, that this Pamphlet was of great Importance in the Revolution. I doubted it at the time and have doubted it to this day. It probably converted some to the Doctrine of Independence, and gave others an Excuse for declaring in favour of it. But these would all have followed Congress, with Zeal: and on the other hand it excited many Writers against it, particularly plain Truth, who contributed very largely to fortify and inflame the Party against Independence, and finally lost us the Allens, Penns, and many other Persons of Weight in the Community.John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 23 of 53, January - April 1776.
Quakers? George Washington wrote to them, saying:
    Your principles and conduct are well known to me; and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burden of the common defense) there is no denomination among us, who are more exemplary and useful citizens.
BABINSKI: ... regardless of whatever additional roles were played by "Moses and the Ten Commandments." 

Moses and the Ten Commandments are foundational to the Christian paradigm, which was influential to the decision-making of the Founders. Not Solon, as advocated by Carrier.

Noah Webster wrote, in History of the United States: to which is prefixed a brief historical account of our [English] ancestors, from the dispersion at Babel, to their migration to America and of the Conquest of South America by the Spaniards. New Haven, Conn.; Louisville, Ky, 1832. 321 pp.:

    ... "[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion." p. 6.... 578. "Origin of Civil Liberty. Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion. Men began to understand their natural rights, as soon as the reformation from popery began to dawn in the sixteenth century; and civil liberty has been gradually advancing and improving, as genuine Christianity has prevailed. By the principles of the Christian religion we are not to understand the decisions of ecclesiastical councils, for these are the opinions of mere men; nor are we to suppose that religion to be any particular church established by law, with numerous dignitaries, living in stately palaces, arrayed in gorgeous attire, and rioting in luxury and wealth, squeezed from the scanty earnings of the labouring poor; nor is it a religion which consists in a round of forms, and in pompous rites and ceremonies. No; the religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and His Apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government." pp. 273-274.
    ... 53. "But were we assured that there is to be no future life, and that men are to perish at death like the beasts of the field; the moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts, because they are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war, and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." pp. 309-310.
    ... 54. "As the means of temporal happiness then the Christian religion ought to be received, and maintained with firm and cordial support. It is the real source of all genuine republican principles. It teaches the equality of men as to rights and duties; and while it forbids all oppression, it commands due subordination to law and rulers. It requires the young to yield obedience to their parents, and enjoins upon men the duty of selecting their rulers from their fellow citizens of mature age, sound wisdom, and real religion -- 'men who fear God and hate covetousness.' The ecclesiastical establishments of Europe, which serve to support tyrannical governments, are not the Christian religion, but abuses and corruptions of it. The religion of Christ and his apostles, in its primitive simplicity and purity, unencumbered with the trappings of power and the pomp of ceremonies, is the surest basis of a republican government." p. 310.
    "...Now reason, unaided by revelation, cannot answer these questions. The experience of the Pagan World has long since determined this point. Revelation alone furnishes satisfactory information on these subjects. Let it then be the first study that occupies your mind, to learn from the scriptures the character and will of your maker; the end or purpose for which he gave you being and intellectual powers, and the duties he requires you to perform. In all that regards faith and practice, the scriptures furnish the principles, precepts and rules, by which you are to be guided. Your reputation among men; your own tranquillity of mind in this life; and all rational hope of future happiness, depend on an exact conformity of conduct to the commands of God revealed in the sacred oracles."

BABINSKI: I am content that the founders ratified a First Amendment and Bill of Rights that includes, "Freedom of religion and speech," RATHER THAN, a First Commandment that says, "No other God's before me" [under penalty of death] including laws against blasphemy and taking the Lord's name in vain. 

Sorry. There is no death penalty mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

Skeptics should also realize the principle of “Freedom of religion and speech” is due to Christian influence, not Solon, as demonstrated in this article.
Do skeptics not know that the Constitution acknowledges the Christian Sabbath?

    Article I, Section 7, Paragraph 2: "If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law."
BABINSKI: I am content with John Adams being a devout Unitarian, i.e., a "Christian religion" that did not preach the doctrines of predestination, original sin, or the full divinity of Christ. 

Then Babinski should be content with Adams crediting the general principles of Christianity in his letter to Thomas Jefferson, to which Jefferson did not refute.

    "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles."The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a life of the author, notes and illustrations. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856. 528 pp. Volume 10 of 10. Letter to Jefferson, 28 June, 1813. Also in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904, Vol. XIII, pp. 292-294.
Bill Fortenberry expounds further on the topic here.BABINSKI: Rather, he emphasized the importance of reason and morality in religious life, and that he remonstrated against religious intolerance In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in which he wrote: "I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"

Except Babinski fails to comprehend what Adams said next:

“With the rational respect which is due to it . . .”
“It,” referring to the Cross.
Then Adams describes the cause of the abuse:
“knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill, or might fill, the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.”

Note the difference between “the Cross” -- and “abuse of the Cross” and “prostitutions of it.”

As Bill Fortenberry says, “Adams was not opposed to Christianity at all. He identified Christ as his Savior on multiple occasions, but he was very much opposed to the abuses which had been promulgated in the name of Christianity by the established churches of Europe.”

BABINSKI: In his letter to Samuel Miller, 8 July 1820, Adams admitted his unbelief of Protestant Calvinism: "I must acknowledge that I cannot class myself under that denomination."

It would be helpful for skeptics like Babinski to read his words in context, and to consider the positive attributions to Christianity and the Bible. He said elsewhere:

    Quincy, 8 July, 1820.You know not the gratification you have given me by your kind, frank, and candid letter. I must be a very unnatural son to entertain any prejudices against the Calvinists, or Calvinism, according to your confession of faith; for my father and mother, my uncles and aunts, and all my predecessors, from our common ancestor, who landed in this country two hundred years ago, wanting five months, were of that persuasion. Indeed, I have never known any better people than the Calvinists. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that I cannot class myself under that denomination. My opinions, indeed, on religious subjects ought not to be of any consequence to any but myself. To develop them, and the reasons for them, would require a folio larger than Willard's Body of Divinity, and, after all, I might scatter darkness rather than light. Before I was twelve years of age, I necessarily became a reader of polemical writings of religion, as well as politics, and for more than seventy years I have indulged myself in that kind of reading, as far as the wandering, anxious, and perplexed kind of life, which Providence has compelled me to pursue, would admit. I have endeavored to obtain as much information as I could of all the religions which have ever existed in the world. Mankind are by nature religious creatures. I have found no nation without a religion, nor any people without the belief of a supreme Being.
Note what Adams says next:
    I have been overwhelmed with sorrow to see the natural love and fear of that Being wrought upon by politicians to produce the most horrid cruelties, superstitions, and hypocrisy, from the sacrifices to Moloch down to those of Juggernaut, and the sacrifices of the kings of Whidah and Ashantee.
Here, Adams is making a distinction between abuses and “the natural love and fear of that Being.” He continues:
    The great result of all my researches has been a most diffusive and comprehensive charity. I believe with Justin Martyr, that all good men are Christians, and I believe there have been, and are, good men in all nations, sincere and conscientious. That you and I shall meet in a better world, I have no more doubt than I have that we now exist on the same globe. If my natural reason did not convince me of this, Cicero's dream of Scipio, and his essays on friendship and old age, would have been sufficient for the purpose. But Jesus has taught us, that a future state is a social state, when he promised to prepare places in his father's house of many mansions for his disciples.By the way, I wonder not at the petition of the pagans to the emperor, that he would call in and destroy all the writings of Cicero, because they tended to prepare the mind of the people, as well as of the philosophers, to receive the Christian religion.
Note also Adams's statements in this letter:
    Quincy, 18 December, 1819.I must answer your great question of the 10th in the words of D'Alembert to his correspondent, who asked him what is matter; "Je vous avoue que je rCen sais Hen." In some part of my life I read a great work of a Scotchman on the court of Augustus, in which, with much learning, hard study, and fatiguing labor, he undertook to prove that, had Brutus and Cassius been conquerors, they would have restored virtue and liberty to Rome. Mais je rCen crois rien. Have you ever found in history one single example of a nation thoroughly corrupted, that was afterwards restored to virtue? And without virtue, there can be no political liberty.
    If I were a Calvinist, I might pray that God, by a miracle of divine grace, would instantaneously convert a whole contaminated nation from turpitude to purity; but even in this I should be inconsistent, for the fatalism of Mahometans, Materialists, Atheists, Pantheists, and Calvinists, and Church of England articles, appears to me to render all prayer futile and absurd. The French and the Dutch in our day have attempted reforms and revolutions. We know the results, and I fear the English reformers will have no better success.

    Will you tell me how to prevent riches from becoming the effects of temperance and industry? Will you tell me how to prevent riches from producing luxury? Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy, intoxication, extravagance, vice and folly.
    When you will answer me these questions, I hope I may venture to answer yours. Yet all these things ought not to discourage us from exertion, for, with my friend Jebb, I believe no effort in favor of virtue is lost, and all good men ought to struggle, both by their counsel and example.
    The Missouri question, I hope, will follow the other waves under the ship, and do no harm. I know it is high treason to express a doubt of the perpetual duration of our vast American empire and our free institutions; and I say as devoutly as father Paul, " Esto perpetua;" but I am sometimes Cassandra enough to dream that another Hamilton, another Burr, might rend this mighty fabric in twain, or, perhaps, into a leash, and a few more choice spirits of the same stamp might produce as many nations in North America as there are in Europe.
    To return to the Romans. I never could discover that they possessed much virtue or real liberty. Their patricians were, in general, griping usurers and tyrannical creditors in all ages. Pride, strength, and courage, were all the virtues that composed their national character. A few of their nobles affecting simplicity, frugality, and piety, perhaps really possessing them, acquired popularity among the plebeians, extended the power and dominions of the republic, and advanced in glory till riches and luxury came in, sat like an incubus on the republic, "victamque ulciscitur orbem."
Note how critical Adams was of the Romans. Does Babinski believe Richard Carrier took this into consideration? 

BABINSKI: In his, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" [1787-1788], John Adams wrote:

    "The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
And where does the use of reason and the senses come from? Adams tells us in the same source:
Adams also said,
    “It would be as reasonable to say, that all government is altogether unnecessary, because it is the duty of all men to deny themselves, and obey the laws of nature and the laws of God. However clear the duty, we know it will not be performed; and therefore it is our duty to enter into associations, and compel one another to do some of it.”[Adams, John, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, vol. 3, John Stockdale, London, 1794, pg 293]
BABINSKI, citing Adams: ". . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians."

Babinski doesn't cite the sentence marked in blue, which undermines the point he's trying to make, and puts Adams comments into their proper context. We'll address this shortly. There is a difference between “pretence of miracle” and “an actual miracle.” Adams knows that difference, even if Babinski does not.
In his diary, Adams wrote:

    The great and almighty Author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the World, can as easily Suspend those Laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of J [Jesus] C [Christ]. Altho' some very thoughtfull, and contemplative men among the heathen, attained a strong persuasion of the great Principles of Religion, yet the far greater number having little time for speculation, gradually sunk in to the grossest Opinions and the grossest Practices. These therefore could not be made to embrace the true religion, till their attention was roused by some astonishing and miraculous appearances. The reasonings of Phylosophers having nothing surprizing in them, could not overcome the force of Prejudice, Custom, Passion, and Bigotry. But when wise and virtuous men, commisioned from heaven, by miracles awakened men's attention to their Reasonings the force of Truth made its way, with ease to their minds.John Adams diary 1, 18 November 1755 - 29 August 1756.
Adams, when President, issued two Prayer and Fasting Proclamations. Here’s what he said in the second:
    And I do also recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence, and prayer fervent thanksgiving to the Author of All Good be united for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others.By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. March 6, 1799.
Does Babinski believe these “continuing” and “countless” favors are not miraculous, being of supernatural origin?Skeptics should heed the Declaration of Independence, which states,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
    . . . We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
John Adams signed this document, as did 55 others. Did Babinski not know that?No mystery here. No pretence of miracle.

Note what Adams says:

    “It already appears, that there must be in every society of men, superiors and inferiors, because God has laid in the constitution and course of nature the foundations of the distinction.” [Adams, John, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, vol 1, Philadelphia, 1797, pg 159]" ... I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization."--pp. 608-610. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a life of the author, notes and illustrations. Boston, 1850-1856. 659 pp. Volume 9 of 10. Letter to François Adriaan van der Kemp, 16 February 1809. Also here. Extract.
John Adams also stated:
    "Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions. I have examined all, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means and my busy life would allow me, and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen; and such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation."The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Being His Autobiography, Correspondence, Reports, Messages, Addresses, and Other Writings, Official and Private, Published by the order of the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library, from the original manuscripts, deposited in the Department of State. With explanatory notes by the editor, H.A. Washington. Washington, D.C.: Taylor and Maury, 1854. Volume 6 of 9. John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Quincy, 25 December, 1813.
    February 22. Sunday. "Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law-book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged, in conscience, to temperance and frugality and industry; to justice and kindness and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence, towards Almighty God. In this commonwealth, no man would impair his health by gluttony, drunkenness, or lust; no man would sacrifice his most precious time to cards or any other trifling and mean amusement; no man would steal, or lie, or in any way defraud his neighbor, but would live in peace and good will with all men; no man would blaspheme his Maker or profane his worship; but a rational and manly, a sincere and unaffected piety and devotion would reign in all heats. What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this region be!"
    The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a life of the author, notes and illustrations. Boston, 1850-1856. 553 pp. Volume 2 of 10. Preface and Diary. Includes diary entries for February 15-28, March 1-7, 12-26, August 1, September 10, October 17, 1756. Extracts.
    "The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou shalt not covet,' and 'Thou shalt not steal,' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free."
    The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a life of the author, notes and illustrations. Boston, 1850-1856. 546 pp. Volume 6 of 10. Four Letters: Being an Interesting Correspondence Between Those Eminently Distinguished Characters, John Adams, Late President of the United States; and Samuel Adams, Late Governor of Massachusetts.
    The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.
    The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a life of the author, notes and illustrations. Boston, 1850-1856. 659 pp. Volume 9 of 10. Letter of John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 4, 1816.

Here, it should be evident to skeptics that Adams does believe in the Ten Commandments.Babinski neglected the sentence following the quote he cited:

    “The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians.”[Adams, John, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, vol 1, Philadelphia, 1797, pg xv]
Adams makes a distinction between “the monkery of priests” and “reason, morality and the Christian religion,” even if skeptics do not.And consider this:

    “The human understanding is a revelation from its maker, which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no scepticism, Pyrrhonism, or incredulity or infidelity here. No prophecies, no miracles are necessary to prove this celestial communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three, and that one is not three nor can three be one.”John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
To the skeptics, we make the following recommendations:Do not quote out of context.

Learn the difference between “abuse” and the object being abused.

Avoid the genetic fallacy in your discussions.

Accept responsibility for your errors.

And accept the fact of America’s Christian Heritage.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Snap: Mary Poplin's "Is Reality Secular?"

I'm rounding off the last revisions to Tekton's new website revamp, so I'm pleased to have another guest review by my ministry partner Nick Peters.


Recently, JPH sent me to review the book “Is Reality Secular?” by Mary Poplin. I found myself immediately impressed by the premise right at the start and the book impressed me so much that I have arranged for Poplin to be my guest on the Deeper Waters Podcast on May 10th, 2014.

The opening premise is that at the start, we have accepted so much about reality that it must be secular. This is the case with atheists who think that the Christian alone has the burden to prove their worldview. The atheist does not. They just have to show that they lack “God belief.”

Yet what if this is not so? How could someone establish that secularism is a true view of the world? It is just fine that the skeptic is one who is questionable about the possibility of miracles, but upon what basis can they make statements such as “We know that miracles don’t happen” or that “Today, science has shown us X” as if that clinches the whole debate. (This might be a shock to such people, but back in Biblical times, they knew dead people stay dead, virgins don’t give birth, etc.)

Poplin also points out that while such a view was meant to be tolerant, it turns out to be the opposite. When secularism reigns, all religions are indeed seen as equally false, but they are also seen as equally harmful. Want to know why you should argue against Christianity? Well look at what happened by Muslim terrorists on 9/11. Well yeah, it was a different religion, but the Muslim operated from faith and the Christian operates from faith and therefore, both are faith positions and both are evils to be avoided. (If you think this sounds bizarre, then why is it that Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith” was started on 9/11 and while there is a section in there on Islam, most of it is arguing against Christianity?)

Poplin takes us through four major worldviews. Those are materialism, secular humanism, pantheism, and monotheism. She examines each of them and in her own way has been a practitioner of each. She concludes that Christianity can not only explain itself, but the other worldviews as well and the other worldviews cannot understand Christianity from the outside.

Poplin also includes much of her own story in this such as her work with Mother Teresa that led to her conversion and the sinful mistakes that she made in her past. She is a highly candid writer who does not hold back and at the same time writes with a great thankfulness for the grace of God in her life.

Having said that positive, I do think at times that there can be some reliance on pop apologetics at times and I don’t agree with her views on Biblical matters, such as her views on the end times presented in the book, but those are more often than not side issues as she does react greatly with actual scholarship on the issues as well.

In conclusion, I do recommend Poplin’s book. The opening question is one that is worth discussing and Poplin’s style by making it personal can also be quite engaging. I encourage Christians and non-Christians to get this book and consider the arguments that are therein.