Reflections on ex-pentecostal militant atheists…

…Is it just me, or do ex-pentecostal pastors/faith healers make the most insanely irrational and venomous militant atheists, or what?

I’m thinking specifically of Hector Avalos, and more specifically Dan Barker.

Not only are they really angry, but they’re really arrogant.

In the last several weeks, while working at church, I’ve listened to:

Avalos vs. William Lane Craig (on resurrection)

Barker vs. Manatta (on existence of God)

Barker vs. Friel (on existence of God)

Barker vs. Licona (on resurrection)

Barker vs. Wilson (on existence of God)

Barker vs. D’souza (08) (on existence of God)

Barker vs. D’souza (09) (on existence of God)

Barker vs. Kyle Butt. (on existence of God)

And after listening to that all, I’m astonished at how arrogant Dan Barker is.  It’s amazing.  It’s unfathomable.

He says (vs. Friel and many) that he could have designed the universe better than it is if God would have let him do it.

He says (vs. Wilson) that Moses didn’t know  Hebrew as well as he does.  (Maybe he could help us understand the proper pronunciation of the tetragrammaton?).

He says (vs. Licona) that he knows Greek better than Dan Wallace, though he admits to taking 2 years of Greek whilst Dan Wallace has taught if for 20+ years and has written  several Greek textbooks, one of which is the standard intermediate textbook everywhere I know of…)

He says (vs. many) that the Bible is the “worst” source to quote because of all it’s “contradictions” (all of which are really weak and suggest Barker never had any sort of example of hermeneutics in his earlier years…) and he claims to be competent in the original languages (which I think means “able to read them”, not understanding the syntax or exegetical significance of any of the genres, figures of speech, poetic devices, etc.)

What’s the most bizarre is how he makes so much of his case on the idea that he used to be “the most Christian guy ever” because he worked with Kathryn Kuhlman and was preaching when he was 15.  He talks about how he was a faith healer (vs. Friel he admits that he did it, knowing it was a sham, for 4 months before he left Christianity…?!?) and he talks about how he always used to evangelize with the “If drugs don’t help, try Jesus” kind of gospel.

Is it any wonder that a smart guy got exposed to the lunatic fringe and found it intellectually unsatisfying?  I would love to debate him and simply ask him “what if you were part of a lunatic fringe (i.e. false) version of Christianity?”  Either that, or I’d agree with much of what he says and explain “I don’t know why you keep attacking a god who isn’t the God of the scripture!”  I hope James White does that when he debates him.  No kidding.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger

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8 thoughts on “Reflections on ex-pentecostal militant atheists…

  1. The answer to your first question is no. And I adjure you to really try to understand us before you call us angry. You would be saying that anyone who is passionate about a cause is angry. Some former Christians are indeed angry, but just like anyone who feels brainwashed or abused for years goes through an initial stage of anger, these people usually come out of it. Other atheists are just upset at the ignorance and delusional thinking that motivates our world leaders. Unless you are not politically active and have no axe to grind in that scene then you too are angry with some things you see in politics. Wouldn’t you be angry if you were gay? What if the roles were reversed?

    Were Christians during the Crusades angry?
    Were the Inquisitors angry?
    Were the slave holders angry?
    According to Christian theology is anger wrong?

    Sheesh, such stupidity can ONLY be attributed to the fact that you do not personally know any atheist or you have never tried to understand us at all.

    Ohhhh, I suppose my comments depict me as angry too, just because I disagree firmly.

    Nothing we say, right, can change your thinking…..

  2. Wow. How did you find my blog? And John Loftus? I’m impressed. I never expected celebrity involvement!

    And thanks for answering my question!

    But John, what’s up with the steam rolling onto the blog of someone you don’t know and calling names? I do take a light shot at Avalos, but I definitely get all up on Barker…not that he would waste his time reading this blog or would likely care if he did.

    How would I understand you? I listen to debates, read bios, and listen to lectures/addresses given at atheistic societies, etc. I sometimes make efforts to read atheist books, but I’m also in Seminary and don’t have a lot of free time for “leisure reading”. I’ve read 10 of Ehrmans books, and 1 each of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Dennett. Should I buy all your books and read them, then read your blog and personally correspond with you? Should we go out for lunch sometime? I’d actually love that! If you’re in Los Angeles, let me know!

    But what’s up with going off about “the ignorance and delusional thinking that motivates our world leaders”?

    Did I mention politics in the post?

    What’s up with calling me “angry with some things you see in politics”?

    If you have something to say about my stupid ramblings about politics, then post those comments on the posts dealing with politics (there’s maybe only 1 on the entire blog). Otherwise dude, you sound sorta nuts.

    Were Christians during the Crusades angry?

    There were no Christians involved in the crusades. Claiming to be a “toaster” and actually being a “toaster” are not the same. True Christians die for Christ but don’t kill for him.

    Were the Inquisitors angry?

    See above reply.

    Were the slave holders angry?

    In Ancient Israel? Ancient Rome? Eighteenth century Alabama? Slavery is a foul word, but not all slavery was identical.

    According to Christian theology is anger wrong?

    Well, it’s never prescribed, even in Ephesians 4:26. Christians are never told to be angry, and anger is consistently connected with sin when it’s found in anyone other than God. I would say that anger itself isn’t wrong, but it’s always found hand-in-hand with sin.

    “Sheesh, such stupidity can ONLY be attributed to the fact that you do not personally know any atheist or you have never tried to understand us at all.”

    Nice. My first interaction with you, and you call me stupid. I really feel motivated to give you a fair shake now…

    Ironically I know several atheists. In fact, I’ve journeyed alongside 3 friends from faith to militant atheism, all of whom I’ve known for over a decade. I’ve sat with them at initial stages of doubt, and I’ve talked with them for literally months at a time, engaging them seriously and giving them the most solid and biblical answers I know.

    One guy even sat in my living room and admitted that I intellectually had the case, hands down. Then he got up on my couch and started yelling at the ceiling (presumably at God) how “I’m not giving up! I HATE you!” He had a hard time convincing me that he was an atheist after that…

    I have atheist friends, as well as homosexuals, lesbians, LDS, Satanists, Witches, etc. I worked with street kids for 6+ years and I’ve met just about every type there is. I’ve been on university campuses for years too, talking with people of every stripe.

    I understand the crisis of faith that comes at the point in your life when you face real suffering, or face real articulate intellectual attack against dogma and practice that you previously took for granted as “biblical” or “normal”. I understand the pain that tugs at the heart and wants to yell at God when a 21 year old guy loses his wife in a car accident after 9 months of marriage, or when a person loses a child, or when someone watches a loved one die, over months or years, from a horrible disease. I’ve had hard questions for God too. I’ve yelled at ceilings. I think that I understand atheism quite well. But, I understand it in the clarifying light of scripture, not the confusing fog of my own autonomous reason, hopelessly confounded by the noetic effects of sin. I don’t understand it because of my superior intelligence or my experience; I doubt I have superior intelligence or experience to most. I understand it because the omniscient designer and creator of all graciously shared insight into ultimate reality, which he knows completely and comprehensively.

    Like both Dan Barker and Hector Avalos, I’ve also been involved with the lunatic fringe of Pentecostalism. And like them, (and Ehrman), I’ve come up against the hard wall of things like textual corruption and academic, doubt-fueled liberalism that seeks to study the Bible in a non-Biblical worldview (and for some reason, always finds the bible wanting…).

    Unlike Ehrman, I worked at Mark 2:26 until I found an answer because I work in a hermeneutic of trust (as opposed to doubt) and figured that if the answer isn’t here now, it is allowed to come later, if at all. It’s sheer unbridled arrogance to think that if I cannot answer a question, it’s unanswerable.

    And unlike Avalos and Barker, I didn’t leave the Church and start making a career out of destroying Christianity…instead I kept slowly asking questions and getting answers and God, in his infinite grace, granted me a true view of my sin and me need of the person and work of Jesus Christ. God didn’t fix me; I wasn’t broke. I was dead and God brought me from death to life. When I left Pentecostalism, I didn’t become an atheist; I became a Christian (not insinuating that Pentecostals aren’t Christians, but I wasn’t when I was a very large part of it).

    And yeah John, coming in and ranting about random things, as well as calling names, is fairly typical for a knee jerk response in anger. It’s not that you disagree, it’s in your presentation. That’s the key. Coming in and ranting about unrelated things, as well as calling names, makes you sound like you’re angry…which leads to the question: If you recognize that, why do it? If your presentation is bad enough that you are the biggest flaw in your case, then why not tone it down?

    And nothing you say can change me thinking? Oh no. Not at all. Bring all your arguments. Bring all your most articulate and strongest attacks against the Bible. It’s possible that some of what you say will change my mind about whatever specific issue, or something.

    But, it’s a basic confusion of many atheists to think that the whole process of leaving Christianity is a purely mental transformation. It is not so much a mental transformation as a manifestation of the heart. I would recommend reading “The Almost Christian Discovered” by Mathew Mead; he wrote a whole book on how one can appear to be a Christian and can never know saving faith. Love for theology, or being the smartest guy in seminary, or successfully defending the faith, or having success in evangelism, etc. is not necessarily the same as love for God or a belief in the gospel.

    Nothing you can say will change my heart, just as nothing I can say will change your heart. That’s definitely true, and it’s the Lord’s domain to change the heart. Until that happens, nothing I say could possibly ever change your thinking, and vice versa. If I change my mind, it will because my heart changes first.

    • “There were no Christians involved in the crusades. Claiming to be a “toaster” and actually being a “toaster” are not the same. True Christians die for Christ but don’t kill for him.”
      no true scotsman fallacy
      ” Slavery is a foul word, but not all slavery was identical.”
      well the slavery in the bible did not condemn ancient jewish nor roman slavery and 18th century Alabama slavery could easily justfied by the bible with out any bad ad hoc rationlizations (most of the africans enslaved were POWs that were sold by warlords not randomly kidnapped)

      • Thanks for the comments. Allow me to offer some needed correction:

        Denying the profession of Christianity by people who kill Christians for being Christians isn’t a “no true scotsman” fallacy. I don’t think you understand that fallacy as well as you think, nor the crusades.

        1. The fallacy doesn’t apply because it’s only properly applied when there’s a broad categorical definition that is narrowed in order to evade troublesome data that fits the originally broad definition. The Catholic Church of the pre-reformation era was not Christian, not because I’m an authority on who are the authentic Christians but rather because the Bible is an authority on who are the authentic Christians. I’d write a few paragraphs unpacking that, but I’m assuming that would be horribly wasted efforts on my part. Either way, I don’t include the Catholic Church, on the whole since it’s inception at the initial recognition of the Bishop of Rome being the head of the church, in the definition of “Christian”. I don’t include other heretical groups either (i.e. oneness Pentecostals, Westboro Baptist Church, the entire prosperity gospel movement, etc.), or people who live lives marked by habitual sin (i.e. adulterers, thieves, liars, etc.). The definition of “Christian” that’s given by the Bible is quite narrow from the start.

        2. The Crusades also wasn’t an action of any local church. The Crusades was military actions performed by the multi-national empire overseen by the political entity known as Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism used the thin veil of religion to amass political power and their political machinations had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity.

        3. Ah. The slavery question. You’re right. The Bible didn’t command slavery to be overthrown…since the gospel isn’t so much about political activism/social change in this world as it is preparation for the coming, post-resurrection kingdom of Christ. Both Judaism was a socio-political system but Christianity isn’t. Judaism allowed for and regulated slavery, which was the only possible social net for people in the ancient near east. It was neither permanent nor inescapable in Israel. In a Biblical worldview (at least for the sake of argument), why would it be beneficial or necessary for Christianity to immediately attempt to pursue political/social change for which it has little concern?

        And who in the 18th century was justifying slavery on the basis of the scripture, interpreted responsibly and in it’s proper context? Nobody, that’s who. I’ve asked the question for a long time, but I never get a single name or reference because the only fellows arguing convincingly from the scripture were the abolitionists: people like William Wilberforce, Samuel Sewall, Charles Finney and Theodore Weld. They were the ones appealing to the scripture for abolition and not using shallow argumentation with proof-texting like their opponents. Do you even know what the abolitionist arguments even were? Can you spot the difference between exegetical support and proof texting?

        I await your witty retort.

      • first of all i mentioned the no true scotsman fallacy because it seemed like you were implying that no true christians will ever act cruelly or immoraliy and second of all christians who hated slavery claimed it contradicted Jesus’s message of love, justice and kindness but you can be kind to your slaves while owning them as property for life so there is no contradiction its is not enough to justfty slavery as “bad”, so his messages of love and justice cannot be used to declare slavery to be wrong. William Wilberforce was just very good at using rheotric and emotion to get people on his side by appleaing to the cruelty of slavery if anything its WIlberforce that was quoting things out of context. The slavery of the 17th-19th century was very simular to what god ordered in levticus 25:44-46, you can try to deny it as much as possible but there is no hiding it. Proof texting is reading something outta context like “God is…..evil”, exgetical support is looking at something in context with knoweldge of how someone writing back in that time thought and through the lens of their worldview

        “The definition of “Christian” that’s given by the Bible is quite narrow from the start.”
        yeah i know us ask the Catholics on what is a “true” Christian is! Like it or not RCism is a type of Christianity,the definition you pulled from the bible is your interpreation of the text, a rather vague text at many times to be exact .

        ” It was neither permanent nor inescapable in Israel”
        read levticus 25:44-46 it was very permanent and inescapable, even Gary North was honest enough to admit so

        “Judaism allowed for and regulated slavery, which was the only possible social net for people in the ancient near east”
        so are you saying its okay to be immoral as long as it benefits many people?

        “In a Biblical worldview (at least for the sake of argument), why would it be beneficial or necessary for Christianity to immediately attempt to pursue political/social change for which it has little concern?”
        so then people in the future would not accuse you of being a moral relativist,

        • So the Scotsman fallacy doesn’t apply? Thanks for clearing that up.

          Christians who hated slavery did not refer to some generic message of Jesus regarding love, justice and kindness. Show me where any of the major abolitionists made such a generic and infantile argument.

          Can you back up ANY of those outlandish claims or do I just take your word for it?

          Show me where Wilberforce was taking scripture out of context. Prove it.

          Show me that the European slavery was like it was in Leviticus. I’m not denying anything. I’m asking you to actually make a case and not just pontificate because I don’t think you have any actual case to present.

          You’re wrong about proof texting and exegetical support. You’re close, but wrong. The difference isn’t “in context” versus “out of context”. Proof texting is taking a simplistic surface reading of a text based on the presence of a pre-selected term or idea and declaring that the passage mentions the issue at hand…and then using that mishandled text to support an idea (usually on the basis of a supposedly relevant term or subject). An example would be arguing for the deity of Christ and using John 10:30 as a supporting text with the assumption that “one” in John 10:30 means “one in substance”.

          Proof texting isn’t taking a passage out of one context and placing it in another; proof texting is actually a form of overturning grammar and syntax and often even allegorization. Proof texting involves taking a passage out of its context, yes…but proof texting is more than that.

      • “Christians who hated slavery did not refer to some generic message of Jesus regarding love, justice and kindness. Show me where any of the major abolitionists made such a generic and infantile argument”
        you mean here? https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/wilberforce/
        “Can you back up ANY of those outlandish claims or do I just take your word for it?”
        yes you should just take my word for it
        “Show me that the European slavery was like it was in Leviticus. I’m not denying anything. I’m asking you to actually make a case and not just pontificate because I don’t think you have any actual case to present.”
        Read Levticus 25:44-46 and compare how blacks were treated in the confederate states . Also even if this stuff applied ONLY to the Jews like Billy Wilbourforce so claimed in his letter then it means that God is totally silent on the issue of slavery being bad or not and that according to the bible you have to stay silent when god is silent about an issue

  3. Update – Feb 17th, 2011 – I saw that some people found this post randomly and were reading it, apparently examining the comments too. As any reader can see, Loftus wasn’t too interested in coming back and engaging in any discussions; just drive by commenting. No worries, I do that often (so much that I forget where I comment).

    If anyone reads this, John Loftus has authored one book (Why I Became an Atheist) and contributed to 2 others (The Christian Delusion & The End of Christianity, which hasn’t been released yet). Same old thread-bare arguments, and same old dead horse. Pushing supposed contradictions + Not allowing the Bible to speak to itself + Not allowing the Bible to define its categories = The Bible is flawed and therefore Christianity is bunk. Around 80% of militant atheist arguments are simply straw men.

    I would encourage my readers to consider <"http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Delusion-Why-Faith-Fails/dp/1616141689/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b&quot; and then a Christian response entitled The Infidel Delusion. Compare and Contrast. It’s quite enlightening.

    If you sort through that stuff, you’ve pretty much sorted through the absolute best (if that term applies) to what the militant atheist crowd can bring forward. It’s actually quite encouraging, but not for the faint of heart (it’s some pretty heady stuff).

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