Sorted Magazine
The September-October edition of Sorted Magazine is available to buy now.

Have you ever heard something like the following?

“You only believe in God because you want someone to be there. You want your life to have meaning and purpose, you want the comfort of knowing someone is in control of it all. In short, your faith is simply a psychological crutch.”

This common objection against faith in God seeks to argue that many people only believe because they want to believe in God. That is, they do not believe on grounds of good reason. Belief in God, the argument goes, typically comes about as a result of experiencing pain, or worry, or heartache – something negative – to which the person responds by choosing to believe in God to make things better.

It was the psychologist Sigmund Freud who described that religion was a man-made system of belief invented to cope with the, “crushingly superior force of nature.”

The believer is described as projecting a view of God, in much the same way, perhaps, that a child believes that good fairies are protecting them whilst they sleep from all the nasty goblins and things under the bed. It is a belief that one believes to be true in order to feel better.

Recently I found myself at a talk listening to A. C. Grayling, the celebrated philosopher and one of the so-called New Atheists whose recent book The God Argument seeks to counter faith in religion with an optimistic view of humanism.

One of the arguments more heavily pushed by Grayling in that talk was this one of ‘wish fulfilment’. In fact, at a few points Grayling actually likened the argument for the existence of God as akin to an argument for the existence of fairies at the end of the garden.

What Does This Argument Really Prove?

Grayling was offering this argument in support of the idea that there is no God. But wait just a minute. What is the argument actually saying? It may be laid out like this:

  • Many people believe in God for psychological reasons
  • These psychological reasons aren’t reasonable
  • Without good reasons for God it’s unreasonable to say that God exists
  • Therefore God doesn’t exist

However there is a huge jump from premise two to premise three! Since when did how anyone believes in anything amount to any sort of evidence for/against that very thing?

Let me offer an analogy. I might believe that airplanes are carried magically across the sky by hoards of tiny invisible bats, contrary to all the laws of lift and thrust etc. I would be completely unreasonable in my belief structure but that doesn’t mean that airplanes don’t exist!

It’s entirely possible to do the sums wrong and end up with the right answer.

For And Against

Additionally, this same argument may be deployed against those who don’t believe in God. Could we not say that non-belief in God could just be wish-fulfilment also? That is, that you don’t want someone to be there, someone to say what is right and what is wrong, someone that might interfere with you life? You don’t want there to be a higher power so you believe and live in such a way that say there isn’t?

Listen to Thomas Nagel, another philosopher, here sharing his thoughts candidly on the matter of belief in God.

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

The fact of the matter is that how someone believes in God does not speak to the reasonableness of the existence of God. There are many reasonable cases to be made for God, including the historical accounts of Jesus, the evidence of the Resurrection, the arguments from design and from morality, and so on.

Dismissing the existence of God, as Grayling would like to do, because of how some choose to believe in God just does not make for a compelling case. Further more, on closer inspection the argument scuttles itself by the very fact that this argument is not reasonable.

This article appeared in the September-October edition of Sorted Magazine.



To know God and make Him known.

New video from Youth With A Mission (YWAM). 9 years ago I started my YWAM journey and I count it an incredible honour to continue to be working with them now.

Salvation at Auschwitz

September 18, 2013 — Leave a comment


July-August Sorted Magazine
The July-August edition of Sorted Magazine is available to buy now.

Just a few months ago, on a bitterly cold day, I was trudging around the internment camp of Auschwitz, Poland, listening to my guide explain this building and that, when I came across a plaque that caught my attention. The corroded brass plaque was affixed to the side of the wall of one of the buildings that housed the inmates. It marked the courageous life of one man by the name of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest.

The story of Kolbe is one I will not forget quickly. After an alleged escape attempt by one prisoner of the camp, all of the inmates were assembled and from them 10 random men were selected for death by starvation. The brutality of this response was sure to crush any fleeting thoughts of escape that may have surfaced in the minds of the imprisoned men.

One of the chosen ten began to break down in tears as the realisation of his fate overwhelmed him. At this point Kolbe steps forward from the ranks and offered himself in the place of his fellow inmate. Laughing, the camp’s officers agree.

Locked in a small, windowless room underground, Kolbe and the 9 other men are left to slowly starve to death.

As the war drew to a close, the camps liberated and the few inmates who were still barely alive rescued, one man by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek limped away from Auschwitz to begin the rest of his life. This shell of a man was one of the lucky few to make it through. He was a survivor and all because of one man. Maximilian Kolbe took Gajowniczek’s place in the 10 and this selfless act became the ‘salvation’ moment of Gajowniczek’s life, who incidentally went on to live to the ripe old age of 95.

Ultimate Salvation

When Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross to pay the price for a crime he didn’t commit, what was happening had far deeper significance than the people murdering him knew at the time. The Roman soldiers had killed a man entirely unaware of the part that they played in the greatest selfless act the universe has ever witnessed.

When Jesus died, the pivotal point in all of human existence was permanently established. Jesus’ death was the salvation moment for not just one internment prisoner, but for the entire world imprisoned by sin and without hope.

The Bible says that God’s love and justice met at the cross. Jesus stood in our place and paid everyone’s mess with his life. His perfect life – and his life alone – could pay for all the mess of the world. Justice demands payment and as we faltered Jesus stepped forward and took our place, freeing us to life.

Established in History

You can visit Auschwitz today, as I did, and find the plaque honouring Maximilian’s life. You too can visit the small, dark cell where he was starved and murdered, as Gajowniczek did every year after his release. You can read the accounts of his fellow inmates and others at the camp, now published for the world to examine.

Maximilian’s story is grounded in history. His exemplary life and death still inspire many today.

Commemorative Plaque for Maximillion Kolbe
Commemorative Plaque in Auschwitz Internment Camp for Maximilian Kolbe

So too Jesus’ exemplary life and death reach out to us from history to ask us to learn from his story. Attested to by reliable eyewitness accounts, preserved through written records for generations after to examine, the stories of Jesus Christ reach out to us today and leave us with a question to answer.

Maximilian died and we celebrate him for a hero. We can think about why he did what he did but we ask those questions from the position of a spectator to the story. Gajowniczek alone reaped the reward of Maximilian’s death, our benefit comes through the inspiration we may receive from the story.

But with Jesus’ death the reward is yet to be determined. Jesus’ story isn’t merely an inspiring, courageous tale of an act of wonderful selflessness. That’s because the story of Jesus’ life and death isn’t over. We don’t observe that monumental historical event from afar as a spectator.

When we read of the life and death of Jesus we become aware that we are immediately and inescapably involved as characters in the story. Jesus died that all people would be liberated from their mess and the mess of the world. The rewards of his ultimate selfless act aren’t reserved for one man alone but are for all of us.

Jesus stepped forward, in front of us, to take our place, and set us free. The great selfless act has taken place and the freedom that has been bought is offered to all of us now. The only question left is: of what reward will his sacrifice be for you?

This article appeared in the July-August edition of Sorted Magazine.

Demolition Squad Update

September 17, 2013 — Leave a comment


In November 2012 the Demolition Squad was set up at Christian Vision for Men (CVM). Since that time Andy and I have got to work, writing blogs and engaging in the debates that followed.

As well as writing the blogs we had a great time at the annual summer conference, The Gathering (video coming soon!). Getting the opportunity to equip Christians in the UK with tools to share their faith was exciting and rewarding. Andy and I had a lot of fun!

Listen to the Demolition Squad podcast in iTunesNew Podcast

Our latest development from Dem Squad R&D is the new Demolition Squad Podcast. Starting with Intolerance Andy and I chat about a variety of issues confronting the message of Jesus. We engage serious topics with a splash of humour and hope that these talks are useful and thought-provoking.

View the podcast in iTunes or Feedburner.

Recent Blog Posts

The last 9 blog articles from Andy and myself.



You must translate every bit of your Theology into the vernacular. This is very troublesome, and it means you can say very little in half an hour, but it is essential. It is also of the greatest service to your own thought. I have come to the conviction that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts were confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood one’s own meaning.

C.S Lewis in Christian Apologetics quoted in C. S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet



I am concerned that we are not prepared for such fights. I concerned that, in fact, we foster an over-protective intellectual environment that doesn’t prepare people for the bumps and knocks of honest exploration of reality. People who are unprepared for a rocky intellectual journey – people who are taught only to expect ease and triumph – will experience those harsh realities as profoundly disillusioning. Reality can confront us without a sugar-coating and our snug beliefs can be ripped from us in a way that feels, frankly, cruel, as I’m sure Jesus’ disciples would testify. But if we, too, are his disciples, why do we consider ourselves immune? Why do we think we will never have our own worldview lay in splinters? Why do we think that, even if he were to do that, he would certainly do it slowly, gently, easily, and will full explanation?

Read full article …

Good thoughts from Martin Smith on Christian Apologetics UK.



Nothing in my life and faith has been more confusing and spiritually hazardous than my pursuit of marriage. From far too young, I longed for the affection, safety, and intimacy I anticipated with a wife.

Sadly, my immature and unhealthy desires predictably did much more harm than good. I started dating too early. I stayed in relationships too long. I experimented too much with our hearts and allowed things to go too far. I said, “I love you,” too soon. And now my singleness is a regular reminder that I messed up, missed opportunities, or did it wrong.

Me too. If I could say this as well as Marshall Segal did, I would.



“You only believe in God because you want someone to be there. You want your life to have meaning and purpose, you want the comfort of knowing someone is in control of it all. In short, your faith is simply a psychological crutch.”

Have you come across some form of this argument? This common objection against faith in God seeks to argue that many people only believe because they want to believe. That is, they do not believe on grounds of good reason. Belief in God, the argument goes, typically occurs as a result of experiencing pain, or worry, or heartache – something negative – to which the person responds by choosing to believe in God to make things better.

This person is described as projecting a view of God, in much the same way, perhaps, that a child believes that good fairies are protecting them whilst they sleep from all the nasty goblins and things under the bed. It is a belief that one believes to be true in order to feel better.

The God Argument by A. C. Grayling

The God Argument by A. C. Grayling

I was at a recent talk in Oxford listening to A. C. Grayling, the celebrated philosopher and one of the so-called New Atheists, whose recent book The God Argument seeks to counter faith in religion was an optimistic view of humanism.

One of the more heavily pushed arguments from Grayling that evening was this one of ‘wish fulfilment’. Grayling actually likened the argument for the existence of God as akin to an argument for fairies at the end of the garden (a topic Sarah Abbey deals with well here).

What Does This Argument Really Prove?

Grayling was offering this argument in support of the idea that there is no God. But wait just a minute. What is the argument actually saying? It may be laid out like this:

  • Many people believe in God for psychological reasons
  • These psychological reasons aren’t reasonable
  • Without good reasons for God it’s unreasonable to say that God exists
  • Therefore God doesn’t exist

Read the whole article on the Demolition Squad blog



In our amazing era of digital immediacy, I can tell the world where I am and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I can present myself as a busy man living a rich and full life. I can take pictures of my meals, log my locations, snap photos of the people I’m with, and weigh in on what’s happening around the globe 140 characters at a time.

But none of these things mean I’ve been paying attention.The degree to which we are able to be present in the moment, psychologists say, is one of the chief indicators of mental health and security in our personal identity. I can buy that. And I would submit that this takes a lot of courage.

Some good thoughts from Russ Ramsey.



 

Read Michael Kruger's response to Bart Ehrman on the Gospel Coalition blog
Read Michael Kruger’s response to Bart Ehrman on the Gospel Coalition blog

Michael J. Kruger on The Gospel Coalition has posted a response to a challenge presented by Bart Ehrman. The challenge is this: because we don’t have the physical, first copies of the books of the Bible, we can’t trust what the Bible says. Erhman states,

What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them . . . in thousands of ways.

Kruger examines this claim and in his persuasive answer looks at:

  1. The role of the autographs (i.e. those first writings)
  2. The nature of the corruption of the manuscripts

Bart Ehrman’s attack follows in a long tradition of scholars attempting to undermine the strength of the Bible. This particular challenge is a little different to the ones that have come before and it is worth the time the understand the argument and the good reasons we have for rejecting it.