You’ve Got To Believe Something

Is belief in nothing an option? Are there world views with no problems? Why rejecting Christianity gives you another set of problems–which might be harder to deal with.

I had a conversation with a gentleman the other night that had to do with morality, and how I felt that his conclusion as a result of some of our thinking together that moral absolutes must exist — at least some moral absolutes must exist — actually does a lot of work for us philosophically. It allows us to reason towards the existence of God, and it helps to falsify some world views like Hinduism or atheism or agnosticism or materialism and empiricism and things like that. It does a lot of work for us.

But there is another point that I made with him that I want to take some time here to stress, and this has to do with epistemology, which means how we know what we know. But it has to do with knowledge and trying to make decisions about spiritual truth or about any truth, frankly. The point that I want to make is that people have to believe something. Everybody believes something, and even what appears to be a rejection of all beliefs is a kind of belief. One holds something to be true. Maybe what you hold to be true is that nothing else is true, but that is something that you believe is true in itself. This is not double talk. Even agnostics have a type of belief. They believe that it is not possible to know things about ultimate issues like the existence of God.

Now, people often reject Christianity because of certain problems. My point is that there is no neutral place to position yourself in philosophic space. There is no place where you can place yourself in which you believe nothing and therefore don’t take on some burden of proof about what it is that you hold. You can’t fairly say, “Well, Christian, you believe this and you must prove this, but I have no burden of proof regarding what I believe because I believe nothing.” There is no person who believes nothing about ultimate things, and even if you are agnostic you believe in the justifiability of your agnosticism — your uncertainty — and you really have a burden of proof to justify your uncertainty — your unwillingness to decide — to justify your agnosticism. So there is nowhere someone can stand where he has no beliefs.

If you reject Christianity there is something else that you end up asserting by default in its place. If you reject Christianity for certain problems that it has — and I admit to you that it does have problems — it seems to me that one would do so because believing something else or believing nothing at all doesn’t face the same kinds of problems or has fewer problems than believing in Christianity. That’s why you reject Christianity. But my point is, in rejecting Christianity one often times creates more problems than he solves by rejecting the Christian viewpoint. This is something a lot of people are not forced to face but they ought to be. They ought to be challenged on this. Christians are often pushed into the corner, shouldering the burden of proof ourselves, instead of asking the other person to prove what they believe as well.

Even if the person says, “Well, I disregard Christianity. I don’t believe it because I don’t think it’s possible to know anything true about God,” we should ask, “Why would you ever believe that?” You see, the other person has a belief yet we feel that we’re the only one that has to do the defending.

It is entirely legitimate to point out that a person can’t stand in a philosophically neutral position as if they believe nothing. In fact, they believe something and if they are going to reject Christianity, for example, it seems only rational for them to reject it if the reasons for believing what they opt for are better than the reasons for believing in Christianity. This is why it is said that if a person rejects God, for example, because of the problem of evil then I have to ask that person a question: How do you solve the problem of evil by rejecting God?

If you reject God, then you’ve got to reject the idea that there’s anything called evil in the world because God is the standard for good which defines what evil is. You have to not only reject the idea of evil, you have to reject the idea that there is anything like good because no absolute standard for good or evil remains to give those words any meaning. So you haven’t solved the problem of evil by getting rid of God. You have actually exacerbated the problem of evil by adding another problem — the problem of good, an additional problem the Christian doesn’t have to face, by the way.

In rejecting God, the atheist still has to face evil in the world and explain where it came from. Can he? I doubt it. But he’s got another problem. He’s got to explain where good comes from, too, because if there is no God, it’s hard to make any sense out of either of those concepts. If there is no God, then there is nothing that is evil, it seems. You have to have a standard of good and evil that stands outside of us to define what evil and good actually are.

So it’s not a liability of a particular belief system to have unanswered questions. That’s not a reflection on the problem of Christianity — if Christianity has unanswered questions, and I think it does. It doesn’t have as many as many people think, but there are some things that I struggle with and I’ve talked about that here on the air. But you know that doesn’t sink my faith. The fact that I struggle with problems in Christianity is not necessarily a reflection on Christianity, it’s a reflection on knowledge in general. Every world view has its problems. Every belief system has its unanswered questions. So when you reject Christianity because of certain problems you then necessarily opt for a whole new set of problems, and in many cases those new set of problems with the point of view you now adopt are much more damaging than the problems you faced in Christianity.

If a person gets God out of the equation, then he has got to say, for example, that everything comes from nothing. He’s got to say that life comes from non-life. That order comes from chaos. He’s got to say that natural law comes from randomness. He’s got to say essentially that the effect is greater than the cause. Now all of these things are patently absurd. These are problems that a person rejecting a form of theism must engage. It’s a whole set of things that they don’t have to face if they believe in theism.

Do you see the tremendous problems created when one rejects the existence of God? Do you see the problems that are added? It may be that these things are true, frankly. I’m not offering this as an argument for God’s existence. I’m trying to put things in perspective. If you reject one point of view you end up landing on another square, another world view with all of its own same problems. And some of the problems in the new world view that you adopt are more extreme that the problems you thought you were getting away from by rejecting the Christian world view.

It may be that everything came from nothing. It may be that life came from non-life, and order came from chaos, and natural law comes from randomness, and the effect is greater than the cause. But boy, you have to have a heck of a lot of faith to believe that kind of thing. It seems to be much more reasonable, given the evidence, that God is the one responsible for these things. As we observe the world it seems that the effect is never greater than the cause.

The atheist doesn’t solve problems by rejecting God. He creates a whole new set of problems, and most of them are much more pressing than the problems he thinks he’s escaping. – Gregory Koukl

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This is a transcript of a commentary from the “Stand to Reason,” with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©1994 Gregory Koukl

How To Recognize A Cult

by Terry James

Perhaps no end-time signal is more prominent today than current activities by false teachers and false prophets. Jesus clearly warned of these people and their deluding work.

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).

This is the very first warning Jesus gave in answer to His disciples’ question: “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” The Lord put this signal at the very front of the list of things for which we should watch. There must be great significance in the placement of His answer.

Later, in the Matthew 24 account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not” (Matt. 24: 23-24).

We know from sensational reports in recent history that this phenomenon is with us today. Think on Jim Jones, David Koresh, and those who thought they could hitch a ride on the Hale-Bopp Comet if they committed suicide. However, those are the fringe, radical elements of what Jesus called “false teachers,” and “false prophets.” There are far more subtle, seemingly loving, caring false teachers, and false prophets in our midst today, just as dangerous, and as deadly, as were these just mentioned.

There is nothing more important than for Christians to recognize these evil organizations. It is so important to recognize them, because they usually have just enough truth in their deceptive messages to keep their victims from coming to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

I am personally acquainted with a couple that was deeply involved in such a soul-destroying cult before Christ rescued them, and brought them into God’s true family.

Dan and Agusta Harting have, for years, worked tirelessly in their counter-cult ministry, exposing at every opportunity the truth about cults while lifting the name of Jesus so many will be drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit. (Their ministry is Families Against Cults. Their contact information is at the bottom of this column.)

The Hartings have spoken in 600 church of all denominations, both here and in Europe. The thrust of these talks is to warn the Body of Christ about the pernicious doctrines of the cults, and to teach people how to witness to those caught up in cults.

Dan and Agusta have been dear friends of mine for many years, and I can heartily recommend them to any church concerned with this last-days cult plague.

Recently, they have dealt with someone who is within the grasp of a cult organization. Although he believes he is right and they are wrong, they continue to deal lovingly with him, trying to explain the dangers of his position with regard to his soul’s relationship to Christ.

Agusta presented to him the following ways to recognize a cult, and to determine whether the organization to which he is a member belongs in the cult category.

Agusta put together a cult ‘recipe’ from a Christian standpoint; I hope it helps!

– A strong and charismatic leader, who professes to be God’s spokesman/woman on the Earth for today. This is allegedly because he/she was called by dreams, visions, voices, angels, revelation, etc.

– The Bible is allegedly not enough (in spite of its claims that it is completely sufficient!). It is “missing books,” “incorrectly translated,” “not reliable for today,” needs the leader’s interpretation, etc.

– Other writings (usually by the leader) are put on par with, or even higher, than the Bible. Magazines from headquarters are often binding as “scripture” or inspired by God.

– Fanatical control is exercised over members. They must report to their “superiors” frequently. Interviews are set up to see how “worthy” they are.

– Demands for total obedience are exercised. Tabs are kept on the members as to their meeting attendance, as well as other issued callings that the cult demands.

– Mind control; food and drink control; what to wear; what not to wear; underwear; hair length; where and how members should serve God (according to the cult authorities), and how much money should be given, etc. Even marriages are null and void if not performed by the leader’s “authority.”

– Threats of dis-fellowshipping, ex-communication, or discipline are very common. Spy systems are set up, such as surprise visits.

– Former members are maligned, persecuted, and ridiculed, and said to be “sinners,” “unworthy,” or suspect in some character shortcomings.

– Reading of literature opposing the cult is often discouraged or forbidden. It is said to be “lies,” “anti truth,” “out of context,” “spiritual pornography,” “half-truths,” etc.

– Leaders are engaged in some sexual deviation, adultery, spiritual wifery, polygamy, homosexuality, etc.

– Jesus’ name is profusely used to legitimize the group, but His Person and nature have been altered to suit the doctrine of the cult. He is no longer the Eternal, Almighty God of the Bible.

– God is supposedly not the triune God that Christians have believed in from the beginning. The Trinity is said to be “pagan.”

– Salvation is not by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Rather, it is by a long list of commandment keeping, rituals, and especially loyalty to and membership in the group. One can never know if he/she has eternal life until death.

– “New truths,” “lost truths,” or “restored doctrines” are frequently professed. Secret rituals are practiced in many cults.

– Reverence for the cross is discouraged. No crosses are found in or on the cult buildings; members are not allowed to wear crosses (but in some cults this is not so).

– All other churches are “false.” Membership in another church warrants excommunication, or disfellowshipping. Leaving the cult equals being “eternally lost.”

Agusta continued in her note to this man:

“…How does [cult to which he belongs] stack up to this list? Please think hard and objectively before you deny that it fits like a kidskin glove! How old are you…? I suspect that perhaps you are very young, and that you do not know enough doctrine and history of [cult to which he belongs] in order to be able to discuss it in any depth…

I want you to know that Jesus Christ (the REAL ONE) loves and died for you. If you put your whole trust in Him, and His gift to you of eternal life, without any of your own righteousness, you will be saved! This is the Good News! My prayer for you, my friend, is that you will repent and cast all your cares on Him who cares for you.”

Again, I can’t recommend the Hartings in strong enough terms when it comes to dealing effectively with the plague of last-days false teachers, false prophets, and their anti-Christ, anti-God organizations.

Their mailing address is:

Families Against Cults
e-mail: daharting@aol.com
PO Box 491, CARMEL, IN 46082-0491
Phone: 317-844-8055
Web site: IBAE.ORG (click on FAMILIES AGAINST CULTS)

Mistakes Concerning The Trinity

Arianism

Arianism was named for its founder, Arius, who was a 4th century priest in Alexandria, Egypt. Arias taught that Jesus was a created being, who is neither equal nor co-eternal to the Father. In denying the deity of Christ, yet advocating that he is to be worshipped, Arians are in truth promoting idol worship. This belief has found its way into many current Christian Identity and white supremacist groups like Shepherd’s Chapel, and countless “Hebrew Roots” groups.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: Jesus is not a created being, He is the Creator, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” (John 1:3) who is equal with the Father, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Adoptionism (also known as Dynamic Monarchianism)

Adoptionism is a belief similar to Arianism, but arose a century later. Its teaching is that Jesus was a created being who did not pre-exist time, and after passing a test and completing his baptism, he was awarded supernatural powers by God and “adopted” as the Son. This belief is basis for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: God the Son Jesus has always existed, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God,” (John 1:1-2) and always will exist, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Modalism (also known as Modalistic Monarchianism or Sabellianism)

Modalism is the teaching that God can only exist in a single role at a given time. It maintains that God was in the role of the Father in the Old Testament days, the Son in the Gospels, and upon the ascension, took on the role of the Holy Spirit, which is not God, but the spirit of God. Modalists claim that those who believe in the trinity believe in 3 separate Gods, but this is an inaccurate statement and more accurately describes another error known as Tritheism (see below). Modalism is a mainstay of the UPC.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are 3 co-eternal, co-existing manifestations of the same being. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Tritheism

Tritheism is the belief that the Godhead is in reality 3 separate beings, with 3 separate wills, in violation of scripture that says God is one. While maintaining the deity of Christ, schisms of this belief (such as those taught by Word of Faith proponents) diminishes him to born again status and maintains that he was the first born again man, a sinner in need of a savior. Mormons are also tritheistic with the extra wrinkle of polytheism thrown in (see below).

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: Jesus was sinless, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Polytheism

Polytheism is the belief in many Gods, in violation of Deuteronomy 6:4 and Isaiah 43:10, 44:6. This is a schism of Tritheism and is a belief maintained by the Mormon church. They maintain that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the 3 gods of this world, and that the best Mormons will become Gods to populate their own world in the afterlife, where with the assistance of a goddess mother, they can give birth to their own Jesus and their Spirit will reign.

WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES: There is only one God, “Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” (Isaiah 43:10) and in eternity we will worship only Him “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)