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The End of Christianity

End of XtyMy book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World is due out November 1, 2009, but likely will be available early September. It is my response to the neo-atheism of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, etc.

For the introductory material to this book, including the first chapter, go here.

For the endorsements, go here.

To pre-purchase on Amazon, go here.

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21 Responses to The End of Christianity

  1. 1
    HouseStreetRoom

    Dr. Dembski,

    I quite enjoyed your posted excerpt and will look forward to reading more upon its release.

  2. Can you get Amazon to edit J. P. Moreland’s comment? It contains the unfortunate phrase “I have read very few books with its deep (sic) of insight…”

  3. Bill,

    As you know, I am a former militant atheist. When confronted with the evidence, I could no longer muster enough faith to remain an atheist.

    The evidence of the fine-tuning of the laws of physics and the information-processing systems of living things was only the beginning. This alone should have been enough, but there was much more.

    A few years after my first daughter was born, after a long and very painful infertility ordeal, I looked in her eyes and was repulsed by myself — indeed, nauseated — by the darkness and nihilism I knew would be the legacy I would leave her. I somehow knew that she was a great gift from God.

    Thus began a reexamination of myself. Contrary to conventional, contemporary, secular thinking, I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and not one of us is okay. We all have a great capacity for creativity, compassion, and altruism, but also a dark side that would compel us to perform unspeakable acts of cruelty and degeneracy, given the right circumstances. History has demonstrated this over and over again, and every attempt to create utopia on earth through human effort has resulted in the exact opposite.

    Therefore, the Judeo-Christian characterization of the human condition makes perfect, logical sense to me: made in God’s image but in a fallen state. And, therefore, the only solution would seem to be a changed human heart, one individual at a time.

  4. 4

    The cover design is quite nice – very eyecatching.

  5. So is it really the end, or is it just a snazzy title?

  6. Mike1962,

    Yes, it is really the end as far as I can tell. I think t and y are the last two letters of the word Christianity.

    So ty seems to be the end of Christianity. :)

  7. Hmmm. Is evil the destruction of the Christian religion or is the goal of Christianity to explain the purpose of letting evil into our lives?

    Thank you Dr. Dembski for what looks like will be a fascinating read.

  8. Oramus,

    “Is evil the destruction of the Christian religion or is the goal of Christianity to explain the purpose of letting evil into our lives?”

    What in the world is that supposed to mean? Evil is more than the destruction of the Christian religion- and of course the destruction of the Christian religion is evil. Evil is any state that opposes Godliness and The Holy Spirit.

    The goal of Christianity is to save man from his state of natural imperfection, original sin and dieing fate. That is to get us right with God.

    I do not understand what you mean by “or” here either.

  9. Gil, I soooo agree with you. I feel exactly the same.

  10. Following the evidence where ever it leads is all right as long as it’s done consistently. Some follow the Biblical evidence and let it trump the physical evidence. Take for instance the resurrection of Christ. In spite of all we know and what modern science tells us about how people do not rise from the dead, Christians accept the Biblical account. Some of the same Christians accept the physical evidence for an old earth over the Biblical evidence that the natural reading of Genesis indicates a young earth. Why accept one miracle and reject another? If we can’t accept Genesis as being truthful, how can we accept Ephesians 2:8-9 or the Book of Romans? We should let God’s Word be God’s Word.

  11. Frost,

    I was pondering the cleverness of title of Dembski’s book is all.

    If an atheist read the title, there might be some curiosity as to just how Christianity would meet its ‘end’.

    If a Christian read the title, there might be two different reactions: angst regarding the vulnerability of Christianity to evil or the wisdom of God using evil as the ultimate tool of perfecting humanity.

    From a marketing perspective, it is a fantastic title. It can draw readers from all sides of the question.

    The wife doesn’t like me using CC online but I will take the heat for this book.

  12. Frost,

    I would go further to say Christ’ message of salvation is relearning how to possess Goodness. Our ‘fall’ was the loss of the effortless possession of Goodness.

    Now we have to work overtime to hold on even the slightest of Christ’s graces. He won’t stay long in a proud or lukewarm heart.

    It is the continuous possession of Goodness that defeats evil without lifting a hand. If only more professes Christians understood this wisdom.

    The goal of Christianity is to save man from his state of natural imperfection, original sin and dieing fate. That is to get us right with God.

  13. Good Lord. That’s quite a battery of endorsements.

  14. nullasalus,

    Good Lord. That’s quite a battery of endorsements.

    It sure is. And it includes my own hero, Josh McDowell. *chills*

    I know what I’ll be asking for for my birthday this year…

  15. DaRook

    You make an interesting epistemological point.

    In spite of all we know and what modern science tells us about how people do not rise from the dead, Christians accept the Biblical account. Some of the same Christians accept the physical evidence for an old earth over the Biblical evidence that the natural reading of Genesis indicates a young earth. Why accept one miracle and reject another?

    The problem I have with a 6,000-year-old Earth is not the size of the miracle required, but the necessity of positing numerous irrelevant additional miracles by God, to account for what we observe in the geological record.

    “But what makes a miracle irrelevant?” you ask. That’s a perfectly reasonable question. The short answer is: absence of a causal connection with the mighty marvel being wrought by God. A few illustrations will suffice to make my point.

    1. Jonah and the whale. If you want to know why I’m inclined to treat this story as historical rather than allegorical, please read the article, Jonah in the whale , by Jimmy Williams of Probe Ministries. In Matthew 12:41, Jesus asserts that the people of Nineveh, who repented when Jonah preached to them, will stand up on Judgement Day to accuse Jesus’ unbelieving contemporaries. That should be enough for any Christian. Additionally, the fact that Philo (a Jewish scholar famous for his allegorical interpretations of Scripture) and the sober historian Josephus both treated the story of Jonah as historical further illustrates that it was universally regarded by the Jews as an account of an actual occurrence.

    Interestingly, Jimmy Williams points out in his article that there are two sea creatures capable of swallowing a man – a sperm whale and a tiger shark – so I’m agnostic on the question of which one it was. Now, a whale or shark swallowing a man would not require a miracle; but a man remaining alive for three days inside the body of such a creature would certainly require a miracle, in order to prevent death from lack of oxygen or corrosion by the animal’s stomach acids.

    Nevertheless, I have no problem in supposing that such a miracle occurred. It would have been directly connected with God’s aim of delivering an unwilling prophet to Nineveh. Keeping Jonah safe and sound was obviously a necessary means to accomplishing God’s end, so the miracle does not strike me as superfluous, given Jonah’s disobedience of the Divine command.

    2. Jesus’ Y-chromosome. If we accept (as Christians do) that God wished to redeem the human race from the effects of the Fall by sending His only-begotten Son, then clearly the birth of His Son would have to be an event whose timing and occurrence depended purely on God’s will, and in no way on man’s. Hence the birth of God’s Son could not be the result of human sexual intercourse. It had to be an act of Divine intervention. Hence the necessity of a Virginal Conception.

    But we now know that males have a Y-chromosome, while females (generally) do not. So where did Jesus Christ get His? The data from Scripture and tradition indicates clearly that Jesus took flesh from the Virgin Mary, so we might suppose that God somehow interposed to convert one of the Virgin Mary’s X’s into a Y, after the chromosomes divided.

    Secular humanist critics have pointed out that additional tinkering by God would have been required, to make sure that Our Lord did not get a double copy of any defective genes His mother may have possessed, and to initiate genomic imprinting, which requires genetic input from both parents in the ordinary course of events.

    While these miracles might strike an obsessively tidy mind as “messy,” they seem inelegant only from a human perspective. If human scientists wished to accomplish all these effects, they would have to tinker at the microscopic level to get the job done; God, however, can achieve the same result simply by willing the desired end: a human embryo, whose flesh is to be taken from a woman. From a God’s-eye view, the miracle is not messy at all. It is quite simple.

    3. The stopping of the sun by Joshua (Joshua 10: 7-15) and the reversal of the sun’s course by Isaiah for King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20.8ff; 2 Chr 32:31). The Christian apologist Glenn Miller discusses these miracles at some length in an article here and concludes on the basis of purely textual evidence that these were likely local miracles, which were not visible long distances away, and that even if they had been visible, there is no reason to suppose that anyone would have recorded their occurrence at the time.

    The notion that God stopped or even reversed the rotation of the Earth in order to effect these miracles cannot be dismissed out of hand; nevertheless, the most parsimonious interpretation of Scripture suggests otherwise. In my opinion, Miller is quite right to argue that there was no need for such an extravagant violation of natural law in these cases. God would have had no reason to use the most “disruptive” means to accomplish His desired end.

    4. Sundry miracles relating to the Exodus and the Israelite conquest.

    Glenn Miller concludes (see above link) that the crossing of the Red Sea miracle was a local event, not witnessed by large groups of people.

    The plagues of Egypt, seem to have required a large number of miracles to have been worked by God, but these miracles all have a causal relationship with the end desired by God, as means whereby the deliverance of the Israelites was effected. Thus the large number of miracles wrought (e.g. people and animals struck dead) should not deter believers. We may also suppose that God used natural means to accomplish some of these ends (e.g. a plague, or in the case of the three days of darkness, a sandstorm).

    Secular humanist critics have pointed out the apparent cruelty of the Israelites who slaughtered innocent people when they conquered Canaan. I have discussed this matter at further length here. The interpretation of the Biblical accounts of the Exodus, Sojourn in the Wilderness and Conquest is a difficult matter, made more so by the fact that Our Lord said very little about these events during His life on Earth. Christians may therefore have differing opinions about exactly what happened.

    Supposing the events narrated to have been largely historical, I would then argue that if God could spare three of His servants from the heat of a flame in the book of Daniel, then there is absolutely no reason why He could not have intervened to spare innocent Canaanite women and children from pain and distress as they were put to the sword by the Israelites, by shutting down their nervous systems, so that they either went into shock or lost consciousness. The miracle would have required a large number of “interventions” (tens of thousands, we may presume), but they would have been “negative” rather than “positive” interventions, merely requiring God to withdraw His normal means of assistance (i.e. shut down an individual’s nervous system) rather than create an extraordinary effect. Assuming these interventions to have actually occurred, would they have been redundant? No – they were a part of the means used by God to accomplish His goal, which was to destroy a sick, depraved society and give land to a people (the Israelities) who had done nothing to deserve it.

    5. The miracles required to make Genesis 1-11 true are another matter: to account for the features of the geological record, we must suppose God to have worked a huge number of ad hoc miracles having no relation to the end He intended to accomplish or the means whereby He intended to accomplish it.

    The Permian extinction is a feature of the fossil record all around the world. It is a sudden, sharp break in the fossil record: 96% of all species perished, and only a few species survived. Yet this event bears no relation to the Divine goal of creation (assuming Permisn sediments to be pre-Flood) or to the Divine goal of cleansing the Earth of wickedness (assuming the sediments to be diluvial).

    The same goes for the iridium layer at the end of the Cretaceous. What was the point of that?

    It gets worse when one considers the mind-boggling miracles that must have been wrought to accomplish effects that normally takes large amounts of time, such as burrowing throughout the geological column . Once again, the miracles seem to bear no causal relationship to the end desired by God.

    A large number of such awkward facts necessitates a revision of one’s assumptions. That is why most Christians in the 19th century decide to set aside a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. I should add that the unique literary form of the Genesis 1-11 narrative</b< gives us an additional reason to question a literal reading.

    I hope that goes some way towards answering your question, DaRook.

  16. vjtorley,

    To think that we know all of God’s intended ends or all He intends to accomplish is pretty presumptuous. Just because we don’t see causal relationships doesn’t mean there aren’t any. I’m willing to give God the benefit of the doubt. It would just bother me to believe in something different than what my Savior did. He and His apostles took Genesis pretty literally. Was Adam and Eve real, historical people? Was there a universal flood? Did creation occur in 6 days? Christ thought so. Who am I to argue? He was there in the beginning, I wasn’t. He agreed with Moses so much that He stated that if we didn’t believe what Moses wrote, how can we believe His (Christ’s) words (Jn 5:45-47)? In a similar vein, Christ said to Nicodemus, “If I told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”(Jn 3:12).
    Genesis is an historical narrative, as you mentioned, but I don’t know how unique it is. The Institute for Creation Research has a neat article about the distribution of preterites to finite verbs in Hebrew narrative (www.icr.org/article/24/ ). Genesis falls comfortably into the category of narrative writing.
    I’m not a big one in trying to give physical causes to pre-fall events. The physics of the pre-fallen world could have been totally different than after the sin event. The sin event is actually a singularity. We have no way of knowing what the world was like. Perhaps physical laws were not coupled then as they are today. Eve didn’t think it strange to talk to an animal. Maybe all the animals talked then, who knows. Sin changed things, but to what extent? Creation week was a miraculous event, as well as the Noachian flood. God acts, how can we explain it?

  17. 17

    A common mistake that I think many “interpreters” of the Bible make is that for one to have a “literal” interpretation of the Genesis account, that means one has to view all the language as literal, instead of it sometimes being descriptive. This mistake is one that William Dembski also makes, it appears. Having not read the book, but having read the link to the introductory coments and the first chapter it is evident that William Dembski makes a common mistake, that in order to believe the Genesis account was literal means that every term must mean exactly what we would at first think it means in English.

    For instance, many people believe that the Bible indicates a young earth, when it in fact, does no such thing. The Hebrew word translated “day”, transliterated “yowm“, has several meanings including the daylight period, the 24-hour day which to the Hebrews began and ended in the evening, and finally, simply, a time period of unspecified length. See the various definitions for “day” here.

    Now which one of these definitions is used in Genesis? Well, just like when using the word “bat” in English (which can mean a flying mammal, a wooden stick used to hit something, or as a verb meaning to move one’s eyelids), we rely on the context.

    Unfortunately, many “translations” of the Bible are not literal, and in fact, there are many times where the Hebrew word for “day”–”yowm” is translated other than day. For instance, at Genesis 4:3 the term “time” is actually a form of the Hebrew word transliterated yowm. There are many other instances, upwards up 40, that this happens in modern translations.

    It is no secret for anyone who has researched the opening chapters of Genesis that the grammatical construction used in referring to the “days” in Genesis is found no where else in the Bible, or even in independent non-biblical Hebrew texts. So we cannot compare other scriptures to see what this grammatical construction implies.

    In an English version, lets say the KJV, the latter part of Genesis 1:5 reads, ” And the evening and the morning were the first day.” In the actual Hebrew text it literally reads “evening morning first day”. We really have no idea how to accurately translate this, so any translation is guess work. Asserting thus that the immediate context requires the days to be literal 24-hour periods is thus non-defensable.

    Many objections about the rendering of Genesis with the so-called “day-age” interpretation (which in my personal view is a misnomer. I am not claiming that the days are symbolic for age necessarily, but have a different meaning here. This is similar to not assuming that the word bat is “symbolic” for this or that meaning, but it simply has a different meaning) deal with the surrounding verbiage.

    The claim is “when yowm is used with a number, it always refers to a 24-hour day.” Or, another, is ” Occurrences of yowm with the words “evening” or “morning” outside Genesis 1 always refers to 24-hour days.” Another claim is “Other biblical Hebrew words could have been used to designate long periods of time”.

    None of these arguments pass muster. The first and second arguments are demonstrably false when one looks at Psalm 90, also written by Moses. Here, Moses uses the terms ‘evening’, ‘morning’, and ‘day’ in a figurative sense to refer to the length of man’s life in comparison to a grasses life. The NIV reads here at Psalms 90:4-6 “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by,or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning-though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.” So here we see “morning” signifying a beginning and “evening” signifying and end. So it is reasonable assume that the terms could also have been used in a non-literal fashion in Genesis. It is also possible that they serve as an emphasis of the passing of time. Also, this scripture shows how God views a thousand years “like a day”. So this isn’t some mathematical equation that means each day lasted a thousand years as some have claimed. It simply means that ‘day’ in God’s mind can encompasses vast stretches of time.

    The third argument is also invalid, as there are other cases in the in the scriptures use the word “day” to signify a long time, when they could have used “other words”. For instance see Zechariah 14:8, “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.” A day is put on equal footing with summer and winter.

    In the end, both Genesis and the apostle Paul require the days of Genesis to be longer than 24-hours. In the context of Genesis, for instance, why is the seventh day not shown to have an end (Genesis 2:2)? Proof that the seventh day was still in progress comes from David (Psalm 95:11) and the apostle Paul(Hebrews 4:1-10). So the seventh day has clearly lasted at least several thousand years. Also it must be explained that if the seventh day had ended, then why has God not started creative works again?

    Clearly then, William Dembski and others are in error when they insist that the creative days must have been 24 hours when both the Biblical and scientific evidence indicate otherwise.

  18. DaRook

    Thank you for your response. I agree with the following sentiment which you expressed:

    It would just bother me to believe in something different than what my Savior did.

    But then you continue:

    He and His apostles took Genesis pretty literally. Was Adam and Eve real, historical people? Was there a universal flood? Did creation occur in 6 days? Christ thought so. Who am I to argue?

    There is no recorded utterance of Christ in which He affirmed that creation occurred in six days.

    It is quite possible to argue that Adam and Eve were literal people while maintaining that Adam was biologically descended from an apelike creature.

    If Adam’s human spirit was directly created by God, then we can say that Adam was thereby created, as a human person.

    Even if Adam shared a common biological ancestry with a chimp, there is no reason why God could not have then formed Eve from the side of Adam, after endowing Adam with a human spirit.

    Had God done this, it would certainly be true to say, as Christ did, that God “made them male and female”, and “they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6).

    The statements that Christ makes about the Flood are very limited in scope. We are told that “they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27), but then the same language is used about the city of Sodom: “they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:28-29).

    As my grandfather used to say: who are “they”?

    I would also like to point out that Christ’s interpretation of the Mosaic writings was strikingly different from that of his contemporaries on some points – think of John 7:53 – 8:11 or Matthew 19:5. Who can be sure what He really meant when He talked about the creation of Adam, or the Fall?

    Elsewhere in the New Testament, we are told that “a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:20). Saying that eight persons were delivered by God is not the same as saying that only eight people survived the Flood. According to 2 Peter 3:6, “the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” The world at the time could mean the globe; or it could mean the human race; or it could mean civilization, as it existed then.

    The point I wish to make is that outside the Genesis narrative, there are few, if any, statements which tie Christians to a literal interpretation of six days and the Flood.

    I accept your point that Genesis is not a poem or an allegory; it does not belong in those literary genres. The Creation and the Fall were real events; but how they occurred is another matter. I would suggest that the first eleven chapters have a genre which is sui generis: you can’t pigeonhole them. However, they seem to reflect a cosmogony which was widely accepted in the Near East at the time, so it is possible that they were composed as a counter-polemic to paganism, using a cosmogony which the human author of Genesis took for granted, along with his readers. The extreme antiquity of the account makes it difficult to infer the human author’s intentions.

    You write that “The physics of the pre-fallen world could have been totally different than after the sin event.” For all we know, that may be so. However, my point is that this supposition is reasonable only if the changes made by God following the Fall could be compressed into a fairly small amount of information. That is, they would have to be direct or indirect consequences of a Divine Fiat relating to the creation, punishment and/or redemption of the human race. To say otherwise would require imputing to God a large number of additional acts of Divine Fiat, with no bearing on our salvation, and about which Scripture says absolutely nothing.

    In the case of Jesus’ conception, the changes that occurred could indeed be compressed into a fairly small amount of information. The Divine fiat: “Let an embryo be formed from the flesh of the Virgin Mary” entails all the minute chemical changes that must have occurred at the microscopic level to make the Divine fiat come true.

    However, the Divine dictum after the Fall – “Let death now reign in this fallen world” – does NOT entail, either implicitly or explicitly, statements like: “Let the half-life of lead-208 change” or “Let the speed of light decrease” or “Let there be an iridium layer in geological sediments at the end of the Cretaceous.” To obtain those effects, we have to impute thousands, if not millions of ADDITIONAL Divine fiats to God. That goes far and beyond what Scripture says. To my mind, that is an impious interpretation of Scripture. To be a literalist in the 21st century is to be irreverent, in my opinion.

    The early Christians were right to assume a literal reading of Genesis as a default; but when the weight of evidence caused them to realize that the geological record could not be subsumed under a single Divine Fiat, related to the salvation of the human race, then I would say that they were quite right in deciding to abandon the literal reading.

  19. vjtorley @ 15:

    We may also suppose that God used natural means to accomplish some of these ends (e.g. a plague, or in the case of the three days of darkness, a sandstorm.

    God using natural means to make three days of sandstorm, how would he use nature, without using magic?

  20. 20

    Cabal,

    ——”God using natural means to make three days of sandstorm, how would he use nature, without using magic?”

    What’s not magical about nature?

  21. vjtorley

    You’re right. Christ did not directly endorse a 6 day creation, but He alluded to it in Matt 19:4 & Mark 10:6 where He said that from the beginning He made them male and female. Now I can see that if Adam and Eve were formed 6 days out from the creation as being from the beginning. But, being formed 4.7 billion years from creation is not from the beginning. Christ took Genesis for what it said, (“What did Moses command you?”), and we should follow His teaching. That’s all I’m saying. Also, Scripture does say that Adam was made from the dust of the ground, not just his spirit and not from pre-existing life. Eisegesis can really get us in trouble here.
    You said,

    “that this supposition is reasonable only if the changes made by God following the Fall could be compressed into a fairly small amount of information. That is, they would have to be direct or indirect consequences of a Divine Fiat relating to the creation, punishment and/or redemption of the human race. To say otherwise would require imputing to God a large number of additional acts of Divine Fiat, with no bearing on our salvation, and about which Scripture says absolutely nothing.”

    Ocne again, we shouldn’t limit God. We don’t know all of His purposes. He said,”Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done,…yea, I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” Is 46:10-11. He didn’t record all of His declarations just as John didn’t record all of what Christ did (Jn. 21:25). Earth history is a forensic endeavor and therefore, we have more degrees of freedom when interpreting the evidence.

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