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February 2, 2012

22

Why Jeff Crawford is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong–Part 1

by juju2112

Ok folks, it’s time for another sermon review. This one is from Jeff Crawford at Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I love this guy. He’s friendly, writes well, and is an excellent speaker. He was even nice enough to give me a gift: A sermon on apologetics. Dude, you shouldn’t have!

Here we go:

As we as a church, as a people of God, endeavor to move out from the walls of our churches and to actually reach a lost and dying world, there are going to be people who will rise up and will think that we are crazy. Crazy! How could anybody believe what we believe? How could a reasonable person really believe in God?

One thing I learned coming out of religion is that people’s expectations strongly drive what they see. We conveniently ignore things that don’t fit our expectations, and we inflate the importance of things that seem to fit our worldview. That’s why the scientific method is so important to science; it prevents your opinions from coloring the results.

Throughout this sermon, Jeff constantly reminds the audience that atheists think Christians are crazy. He then quickly assures them that they are actually very reasonable. This colors the audience’s view of the arguments given in the sermon. They are expected to be indignant. “Pshaw! How dare anyone think I’m crazy?”

This is made worse by the fact that of the arguments stated, none of the common refutations are even mentioned. It is simply stated that atheists think Christians are crazy, and that’s that. People are led to believe that atheists think Christians are crazy for no reason at all other than sheer incredulity. Many famous atheists are quoted, of course. But somehow, Pastor Jeff could only manage to find the offensive quotes from them. You’d think, with all the effort it took to find those quotes, that maybe he might have stumbled past the refutations to the arguments he was giving.

Nope. Refutations to our arguments don’t matter. Christians are only interested in hearing things that reinforce views they already hold.

The Cosmological Argument

After going on about postmodernism and relativism for a while, he finally hits on the Cosmological argument. For those who don’t know, it goes like this:

  1. Everything that exists must have a cause.
  2. If you follow the chain of events backwards through time, it cannot go back infinitely, so eventually you arrive at the first cause.
  3. This cause must, itself, be uncaused.
  4. But nothing can exist without a cause, except for God.
  5. Therefore, God exists.

Of this argument, he says:

And somewhere back there, you gotta have a first. And somewhere back there, you just get to the point where you realize that there has to be, there just has to be something, someone that is outside of everything that just started it all. And it’s God.

And that’s not crazy. That’s just kinda really common sense.

The way you say there has to be a first cause, with such fervor and excitement, it makes me think what you really mean is that you want there to be a first cause. You’re letting your own desires color your view of the evidence. I have yet to hear a single reason why the chain of causation can’t have existed forever. It’s simply stated as fact with no supporting evidence. Why does there have to be a first cause?

Of course, the most common response to this argument is, “Who created God? Where did this God come from? Who created him? Was it another God? If not, then why is God able to be uncaused, but the universe isn’t?” When you say the universe must have a cause, but God doesn’t need one, that’s Special Pleading. Everything must have a cause, except for our God, who has a special exemption.

Also, what makes you think the first cause has to be a God? Maybe it was some sort of special, unintelligent particle. The qualities you’re ascribing to this “first cause” are assumptions that haven’t been justified.

Even though the issues I’m raising with this argument are very commonly known, they aren’t mentioned at all in the sermon. It’s just implied that the atheists’ only response is that the Cosmological argument is “crazy”.

The Moral Argument

The next argument he brings up is the Moral Argument. It says that because people inherently know the difference between right and wrong, that means God must exist. Let’s just step through an example on this one:

People enjoy being alive. They also enjoy the company of their friends and family. Murder causes immense suffering and pain to victim’s loved ones. Since death can’t be undone, it should be chosen very sparingly lest these consequences occur. I don’t want to live in a society where anyone could kill me for any reason. In order for me to ensure others don’t hurt me, I have to agree to not hurt others. It’s part of the contract of living in a civil society. I also care about the well-being of others. I don’t want to see them suffer.

Was that so hard? Maybe people “inherently know” the difference between right and wrong because it’s stupefyingly obvious. I don’t really get why you need to have a supernatural deity to explain it.

Ultimately, though, this comes down to an Argument From Ignorance. Because you don’t personally understand where morals could have come from, you assume God exists. The problem is, that’s a positive assertion which requires evidence. A lack of understanding can’t be used as evidence to support a proposition.

At the end of this, he says:

It’s a pretty complex argument, but that’s the gist of it.

I don’t understand why people keep saying this. No. No, it’s not that complicated. Most of the time, people overthink it.

Man, this stuff takes a long time to write about. I’ll finish up the rest in Part 2. Coming up: Intelligent Design and why the Bible is soooo much better than the Koran.

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22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Feb 2 2012

    Donald – thanks for the free press! I would hope that ALL your readers would access the sermon and listen to it: http://www.grandfamily.net/sg_userfiles/reach_01_22_12.mp3

    There is never anything wrong with a spirited and civil dialogue. But I fear you might be guilty of missing my point. In no way was I trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the God of Christianity. I was merely attempting to prove beyond a “reasonable” doubt (the same standard as a court of law). Of course any one argument or group of arguments can be argued against and no analogy is ever fool proof. And thus becomes the role of faith in order to take the next step.

    I’ll say that you, Donald, seem like a great guy yourself and I really appreciate the tone you bring to the conversation – truly a far cry from Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. I still think you’d make a GREAT Christian:)

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 2 2012

      Ha! I don’t really have that much traffic to give. All my friends are atheists, though, so it’s probably more atheist traffic than you’ve ever received before. I guess there is at least that much.

      I have to say, I’ve been listening to different local sermons for a while now, and they are BORING. I power through because I have a passion for the subject matter. But you really do a good job. Not boring at all.

      I’ll respond to the rest later.

    • juju2112
      Feb 2 2012

      Have you seen this pic?

      Hahaha, hilarious! Wait, I hope that’s not offensive. No stereotyping here, folks… just a joke.

  2. Feb 2 2012

    Donald, I don’t know anything about you, so I would like to ask a couple of questions and just go from there. Okay? :-)

    Did you ever believe in God?
    Have you ever read the entire Bible?

    Thanks in advance! I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 2 2012

      Yes I have believed in God, and no, I’ve never read the whole bible.

      I have many atheist friends who have read the entire bible, however. I’ve heard that reading the entire bible can be detrimental to your faith, since most people only read the good parts.

      I’d actually like to get started on a local bible study, but I haven’t found a church that really fits me yet. Not like any church would fit an atheist, but most of them have been pretty nice so far.

  3. Jenny
    Feb 2 2012

    Donald, you would be welcomed at our church—Grand Avenue Baptist. And as you have already commented, our pastor’s sermons are not boring. We would love to have you visit.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 2 2012

      Well, I am in Bentonville. So, it is kind of far away. But my mom lives just a couple blocks from your church. So, I may visit one day.

  4. Judith
    Feb 2 2012

    Donald, I join Jenny in inviting you to our church – Grand Avenue Baptist. It truly is a Grand Family so I know you’d feel welcome and comfortable whenever you come to visit. Bring your mother with you.

    I’ve read through the Bible (including the parts full of names difficult to pronounce) and, on January 1st my husband and I started a plan for reading through the Bible together. Youversion.com has many different plans to select from in case you’re interested. ;-))

    Have you ever read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis? I’m sure you know that he was once an atheist who became a noted Christian. When I was going through doubts and questions in the 1980’s his Mere Christianity was helpful to me.

    Good luck in your quest, Donald

    Reply
    • Feb 3 2012

      Donald, you have been Lewised!

    • juju2112
      Feb 3 2012

      Is that a thing?

    • Feb 4 2012

      At least you haven’t been Strobeled.

  5. Feb 3 2012

    The Cosmological Argument
    (to the tune of Any Old Iron)

    There’s a cause that was caused by a cause that was caused by a cause
    that was caused by a causing cause.
    that cause is caused by a cause that was caused by another cause
    that was caused by yet another cause
    and that cause was caused by a cause that was caused by a cause
    that was not caused by any cause.
    and that cause is the very cause that caused all of the causes that was ever caused
    and that cause is the cause that we call God.

    Reply
  6. Feb 3 2012

    My problem with The Cosmological Argument is that the argument says nothing at all about that first cause that they call God. It says nothing about it sending its son to die on a cross and says nothing about how that cause wishes to be worshiped.

    Reply
  7. Feb 3 2012

    Robert – you are right about the Cosmological Argument (and all other arguments for God) – all they give you is God, NOT information about him. BUT for an atheist that is the starting point. Lewis’ Mere Christianity mentioned above is an excellent progression from atheism to the God and then Jesus of the Bible.

    Donald – looks like your theist traffic on your blog has increased! lol

    Reply
  8. Kim
    Feb 3 2012

    Donald… Thank you for examining my pastor’s message. It always encourages learning for myself and I’m sure Pastor Jeff. We would love for you to come to Grand sometime and visit… to hear Pastor Jeff speak. I have been in church all my life and have never understood the Bible more until my husband and I started going to Grand. Pastor Jeff delivers his messages to where I can understand them. He is, like you said, an excellent speaker. If you are looking for a church Bible study to get involved in… I looked some up for you in that area. Not to push the Christianity envelope but if you are searching for a Bible study to get involved in to learn more about our religion and why we believe the things we do… I thought I’d help. I know the Cross Church is big and it may be intimidating but they are offering a New Believers class beginning March 11th at their Pinnacle Hills campus. That may be a good class to go to because the people in that class are just learning what it means to be a Christian. This class would be good to offer you some answers to some questions you may have. Keypoint Church in Bentonville offers a class every other Friday night studying the life of David. This would be a great study on a person who messed up so many times but who was still loved and favored by the God we believe in. Then there is a new church in Bella Vista. I know the pastor personally. It is called Northwest Community Church. It is a nondenominational church. They have a community group called The Sander’s Group. They are walking chronologically through the Old testament. I know the teachers of that group too and they are Godly people who I would personally love to sit under to learn more about the Bible. Donald I hope that you do find a Bible study class to learn from. Not necessarily to become a Christian (which would be great!) but to just learn more about who we are and why we do believe what we believe. It is hard to understand the Bible without faith. The Bible doesn’t give all of the answers to questions we have as humans… but that is where our faith, trust, and belief in God fills in those gaps. And that gives us enough satisfaction to believe in him and depend on him. I hope you find what you’re searching for.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 3 2012

      Thanks for the info. There are indeed a plethora of choices!

  9. Feb 4 2012

    Jeff said, “all they give you is God, NOT information about him. ”

    They give you some kind of creating force that does not necessarily have to be a ‘who’, and that is my biggest problem with me and a major road block from going any farther. Christians say some pretty specific things about God and almost never back it up with acceptable evidence. Often the Bible is presented as irrefutable evidence (it’s not) and I am scolded for criticizing the Bible on such points.

    Them: “The Bible is 100% true.”
    Me: “Deuteronomy 21:18-21”
    Them: “Stop persecuting me!”

    Reply
  10. Feb 4 2012

    Robert – you speak to two different subjects. 1) the nature of the Creation force, and 2) the validity of the Bible. MUCH to talk about and more than can be done in a thread. BUT – thoughts: Actually I was less precise than I should have been regarding being able to know ABOUT God as anything more than a Creator. Much evidence points to the reasonableness of what you call “some kind of creative force.” But when you then observe that which was created you can learn something about that which did the creating. The universe exhibits great variety and clear evidence of design. Thus the universe points to a creative “mind.” And that means you now have more than an impersonal “force” but a personal “Who” aka God. Still a LONG way from the God of the Bible and Jesus BUT a lot more than a “creating force.”

    The Bible: Once you establish God (mind/person) we are left with LOTS of questions. What kind of God is this? What does He like or not like? WHY has he created? Where do humans fit into the equation? Has this God communicated anything at all to us about any of this? When looking at all purported sacred texts, I have personally been convinced that the Bible the the most reasonable option for divine communication. MUCH more, as I said, could be discussed at this point.

    Deut. 21:18-21: Context, context, context. You have quoted a portion of the Jewish Torah. Genesis thru Deuteronomy stand as a WHOLE of the Torah and as such any portion cannot be fully understood standing merely alone. And then there is the whole issue of WHY the Torah / Law. Have you ever asked WHY God would give what looks like such an outrageous command? Surely it cannot be fully lived out, and the truth is that there is little to no evidence that Deut. 21:18-21 was actually carried about by anyone. And that brings us as Christians to the wonder and majesty of Jesus – the Son of God who came to deliver us from the burden of Torah. Now we are talking about the New Testament and not just four verses in Deuteronomy. Once again, context.

    These are deep and weighty issues that cannot be easily dismissed by pulling four verses out of a massive Canon of Scripture and pronouncing the whole to be invalid.

    Robert, I am not going to “scold” you for criticizing the Bible and I am certainly not going to claim persecution because you asked what is on the surface a good question. I AM going to point out that your observation demands a MUCH closer look than you have perhaps already given it. Donald said he is looking for a good Bible study to attend. What you raise with the Deut. passage is a great example of WHY we as Christians study our Bible. To learn and know more about this God that we have come to be convinced exists.

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Feb 5 2012

      I’m sorry, it’s not that deep or weighty. In what context is it appropriate to stone children? What excuse, rationalization, or context could possibly make that okay?

      It is completely appropriate to cite that passage by itself. No amount of backstory can make killing children okay.

      Whether it actually happened or not is irrelevant. It’s in the bible, which is supposed to be God’s perfect word. It is not perfect at all.

      Making Jesus come later and “take it away” doesn’t make it better. It was still immoral to make the commandment in the first place. If I tell people to beat their children, and then retract my statement 30 years later, I was still completely wrong to make the statement in the first place.

      The only thing that makes this deep or weighty is your emotional attachment to Christianity, which causes you to create weird rationalizations for something that’s clearly wrong.

  11. Feb 5 2012

    Pretty, much what Donald said.

    However, I don’t think you are using the word context in the same way I understand it. The verse is certainly not cherry picked. The context appears to be as a law that is dictated by God himself. It is followed by laws and preceded by laws that say , “I am the Lord thy God …” or something like that. The context appears to be as a law ordained by God. Saying that nobody ever used that law is naive to be sure. It is in a book that people believe is 100% right and accurate and some sects believe in doing absolutely everything in that book. There is actually one incident of a toddler being killed (in reference to this passage) because he forgot to say amen or something like that. I will look for a url.

    Seems that often when Christians cry “out of context” they really mean “not my interpretation”. I think that’s the case here.

    Reply
  12. Stephanie
    Feb 12 2012

    To Donald… You said you have believed in God before.. I guess my question is what made you stop believing? At one point, if you believed then you must have had faith at one point. Was it people that caused you to question it, or was it maybe that you had so many questions? Sometimes questions are not necessarily bad, because they cause you to go deeper in. I pray that one day, while searching for answers you will understand the love that God has for you and why He placed you here on this earth. If it was people who may have caused you to disbelieve, then I’d like to say sorry on their behalf. There are a lot of “Christians” who do not act the part, and because of them, real Christians, people who are truly devoted to Christ suffer the stereotyping. I just want to point out a few things. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 discusses the fact that God’s wisdom and plan is hidden to unbelievers because they refuse to accept it, choose to ignore it, or simply haven’t heard about it. Maybe that is why athiest and Christians “interpret” the bible in a different message. It is because as Christians we decide to believe the message that is presented and to live based off its principles.

    Robert – I can see what you are saying when you refer it to certain sects or people who are living out the entire rules of the Old Testament. And yes, today that can seem very extreem. However, the Bible continues to back up any “misinterpretations” we as humans come up with. The Ten Commandments specificially says thou shall not murder. When reading the bible, some messages are very straight forward and some are spoken in parables (or stories) to teach a lesson. As humans who are not perfect we can interpret things wrong. I believe the purpose of Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is more of a lesson. Its expressing the importance of not tolerating disobedience or rebellion from your children. As its been discussed there is not evidence to support it actually happened. And as I’ve said the bible specifically teaches thou shall not murder, and in several places emphasizes the importance of children. Here is an article I found that explains this.
    http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/genesis-deuteronomy/stone-rebellious-son

    In conclusion, a lot of things can be misinterpreted in the bible. Yes our feelings do affect it. As you said Robert, “Seems that often when Christians cry “out of context” they really mean “not my interpretation”… However, there is an argument there. When you read it in your own context and disagree with our message, then you are in fact stating, its not your interpretation.

    The last thing I want to point out, the bible is sometimes even hard for some Christians to comprehend. But our God who created something so intricate like the universe, who made every cell in a living body even to consume a child, and how the whole process works, think of all the detail. We could never imagine something so wonderful up. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8… I believe even as a Christian, I will never understand everything, but I am okay with that. That is not the point to know everything. The point is, when we take a step of faith, not knowing or understanding everything, there is Jesus. A man who walked this earth and talked and walked it out about love, and joy, and who approached people who in society were unproachable, He served, He cleaned the feet of the man who was going to betray Him, He paid the ultimate sacriface for you. I saw that is a great message, and how can anyone turn away so much love and hope that Jesus offers from just saying I believe and letting God do the rest. Its at least something to think about. And don’t let people who claim to be “christians”.. who say I believe but then hate you or hurt you… let them choose what you believe… A true Christian is about love and acceptance and helping. Choose Jesus because you search His word and one day, you wont be able to resist.

    Reply

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