Christian Reader

Is Atheism Dead? – Eric Metaxas Replies

Is atheism dead?

It is easy to observe in secularized societies that atheism — “no-Godism” is the practical presumption (the underlying, working worldview), opening big doors to “yes-godisms” — the innovative idol-making-machines of millions of human hearts in search of meaning. If you don’t devise your own gods, then the obvious meaninglessness of existence settles in to destroy you – nihilism. What’s the point of living?

In 2021 Eric Metaxas published a book of 403 pages by this title, Is Atheism Dead? I included it in my list of books to review this year in my Roaming Reader series.

I’m sorry to take so long to get to this book! In the meantime, Eric has come out with another book, a mere 139 pages, entitled Letter to the American Church. Pastor Erwin W. Lutzer writes that Metaxas’ new book “is like a bucket of cold water thrown into the face of a sleeping church.”

I ordered it and added it to our small stack of Eric’s work. Metaxas is a prolific writer as well as a radio host, international speaker, host of “Socrates in the City”, and cultural-political commentator. He has written three, significant, biographical tomes, one on Martin Luther, another on William Wilberforce, and a volume on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He’s written humor (which flavors most of his writing and speaking), children’s books, scripts for Veggie Tales, and articles appearing in many magazines.*1

403 fascinating pages.

His December 25, 2014 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God,” became the most popular article in the history of WSJ. *2  You will find two links to this article below. (If you can’t read the book, at least read this article. I suspect that you will appreciate it and will be encouraged.) The huge response to the article spurred him to invest much time and work to write Is Atheism Dead?.

The WSJ article begins:

“In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: “Is God Dead?” Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete– that as science, progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place —science itself.”

“As science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe”? This sets up his 2021 book, Is Atheism Dead?.

Metaxas lists five challenges to the “secular consensus” of God’s death, which have become clearer and louder over the years since 1966 — most of which many publishers and pundits prefer to overlook and avoid (a kind of censoring?). Metaxas speaks out. Here are the five challenges his text develops.

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Witnessing the Witness of Queen Elizabeth II

Much has been discussed recently regarding the memorializing, mourning, and burying of Queen Elizabeth II. Most of us were attuned, in varying degrees, through the services of technology, to the unfolding of events since her passing on September 8 . I too followed along. Watching both the state funeral at Westminster Abbey and the committal service at St. George’s Chapel on Monday, September 19, one particular item (among numerous fascinations) caught and maintained my attention.

Each attendee held a copy of the Order of Service and followed along.

The Order of Service.

I listened. I observed. I watched people reading or singing from the substantial bulletin. The speakers read their contributions from the printed liturgy.  Every word appeared scripted. (Even the funeral sermon, not printed in the liturgy, is printed and available online.) But what was the content? What was the focus? What was the meaning? And who may have believed it? Who will believe it?

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Categories: Biography, Christian Reader, The Roaming Reader | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Picking Two Books (Back to The Roaming Reader Series)

I have two, excellent books to tell you about today. You may never read them, but you may be glad to know about them. Maybe you will want to pick up one of them. No matter, I hope you’ll find some encouragement, enjoyment, and even inspiration from this post.

Paul has been picking                                           climbing cucumbers in our raised-bed gardens. Fun, fun! So is picking a good book to read.

I began The Roaming Reader series in March while still in Florida.* I  interrupted the series in the last three posts in order to respond to some questions from a reader. Now, we need to get back to the list of eight books that I picked for discussion. In March through May, I focused four posts on just two books. Today, I want to consider two more books. Since I”m looking at two in one post, this roaming reader will shorten her leash!

Which books on the list did I pick for today?

One fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (2016).

One nonfiction: Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren (2016).

Within these selections, what do we find?

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How are People Nurtured — In Our Constitutional Republic and Pluralist Society?

Today, I will confront the last two of four question-points in this current series (which interrupted another series). These are the questions I’ve been addressing in answer to a reader’s inquiry about an extended quotation I presented by Dr. A.A. Hodge regarding  the impact he foresaw  back in 1887  that secular, public education would have on America.

“In God We Trust.” Where have I read these words?

The previous two posts considered the first two points listed below. Now, let’s consider the latter two.

  1. What is pluralism and what is a pluralistic society?
  2. According to the U.S. Constitution, what is the role of government in education? What/who is responsible for education?
  3.  In our Constitutional Republic, how are individuals nurtured, and how is our culture nurtured?
  4.  What are the roles of the Bible and a “Judeo-Christian” heritage in our current “pluralistic society”?

Nurtured. Nurturing individuals. Nurturing cultures. What is nurture? What does a country’s form of government have to do with the nurturing of individuals and cultures?

Of course, I can’t fully answer these questions, but I can present some ideas pertinent to our times for you to ponder.

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Approaching Education in a Pluralistic Society

Two main questions should be addressed today.

(Other things are going on at my house, so I grab a few minutes here and there to jot down ideas for this post. Then I will finish this and post it after our grandsons return home.)

This is a continuation of the previous post. In that post I presented five points of questioning to explore based upon two questions by a reader about the meaning of a quotation I presented and its application for today’s society (1).  The quotation from Dr. A.A. Hodge, first published in 1887, was about the role of public education in a pluralistic society here in the United States (2).  In answer, first I explored the meaning of pluralism and a pluralistic society, and now we explore these two questions:

  • According to the U.S. Constitution, what is the role of government in education?
  • What/who is responsible for education?

I think you know the answer to the first question. I think you know that the answer to the second is a current issue of controversy. Actually, the what/who is responsible has long been controversial, not only in our country but in many countries, throughout history.

Therefore, the answer to the first question becomes pivotal.

What does the U.S. constitution say about education and government’s role in it?

I’ve collected many old textbooks. This one, written for grades 7-9, was published in 1925.  Very interesting!

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How Can Christianity and Education Dance Together in a Pluralistic Society?

Do you remember the post from last fall in which I included this quotation by Dr. A.A. Hodge, first published in 1887?

“I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social, and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.”

Irises pleasantly sway in our front lawn. “Consider the…irises.” (I have no lilies blooming now to consider.)

It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the States has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States’ system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen.”

A reader inquired:

“Regarding the quote from Dr. A. A. Hodge, “I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion…”, what religion might he be referring to? Or perhaps to any religion or a group of religions? If he meant a particular religion, and if that particular religion was Christianity, I would love to hear your understanding of how Dr. Hodge says this works in a pluralistic society. And, if it doesn’t work in a pluralistic society from his perspective, does he advocate theocracy?

I responded with a long response (for the comment section), and the reader responded again:

“I currently struggle to see how his ideas are actionable let alone defensible in a pluralistic society so I really look forward to hearing this unpacked and learning where I may be misunderstanding things (which may simply be a term or two!).”

So today, I’ll do some unpacking.

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Categories: Christian Reader, Dr. A.A. Hodge, Education, Government, Perspectives on Culture, The Roaming Reader | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Darcie Chan Confronts A Mother’s Dilemma (The Roaming Reader #4)

What is a mother to do?

Believing she bears some responsibility, a worried mother consistently asks this.

In Darcie Chan’s novel, The Mill River Redemption, young mother of two daughters, Josie DiSanti makes urgent decisions during a crisis. Years later, she makes decisions in order to alter the lives of her now adult daughters, in order to alter the relationship between the sisters. Readers will ask, “Was Josie justified to take such extreme measures?”

I began “The Roaming Reader” series in March, promising to review eight books, beginning with a nonfiction volume, The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk (note last two posts). Now we turn to fiction, a lighter read, but one containing weighty, family themes.

The universal wisdom of Russell Kirk’s themes become evident by observing those same threads woven through other books, indeed, through our own lives. Order and disorder. The order and disorder of the soul. The order and disorder of the commonwealth.  Between the soul and the commonwealth flows the order and disorder of the family. Conflict tests the order and reveals the chaos. How will we respond? Like Josie, what will we do?

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Back to Kirk (The Roaming Reader: 3)

Back to Kirk! I’m still focused on the first book of the list I gave you in March: The Roots of American Order, by Russell Kirk. (We noted Kirk’s definition and description of “order” in the last post.)

Worth reading.

In the short, first chapter, “Order, the First Need of All”, Kirk tells the story of a scholar born in Russia. He had been a moderate Socialist in 1917, a Menshevik. He fled to Odessa on the Black Sea, but what did he find there? “Bands of young men commandeered street-cars and clattered wildly through the heart of Odessa, firing with rifles at any pedestrian, as though they were hunting pigeons. At any moment, one’s apartment might be invaded by a casual criminal or fanatic, murdering for the sake of a loaf of bread. In this anarchy, justice and freedom were only words.”

So what did this scholar learn?

“Then I learned that before we can know justice and freedom, we must have order. Much though I hated the Communists, I saw then that even the grim order of Communism is better than no order at all. Many might survive under Communism; no one could survive in general disorder.”

Kirk contrasts this story to our American experience. “In America, order and justice and freedom have developed together; but they can decay in parallel fashion.”

While this volume was published in 1974 and reflects the thought and writings of Kirk since the early 1950s, we clearly see its relevance for today. Such is the nature of wisdom.

I lost myself in this book.

Cups of tea encourage me as I read and write. Thankfully, spring is peeking in the windows. Next week is supposed to be warm and sunny here in Indiana!

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Order, Order – I Hear You! (The Roaming Reader: #2)

Ahh. Today we continue with our new theme of “The Roaming Reader,” begun a month ago in my last post, while I was still in Florida. It has been a hard month of adjustment for me. So, while I did write a draft of what should be the next article two weeks ago, I lacked the drive and clarity to revise and ready it for posting. This is not that essay. I have saved it and may use parts of it at times.

This post is supposed to center on the concept of “order” presented in Russell Kirk’s classic, The Roots of American Order. “Order” holds a ton of meaning and layers of application. So interesting. Order is ubiquitous. It exists in material reality and immaterial reality. When order is absent, its lack increases its importance. When order is compromised, a disequilibrium ensues. Order, disorder, and chaos.

Order is personal. Order is social. Order is political. Order is theological. Order rules biology, chemistry, physics, history, and the arts.  Order is essential for life.

Let’s start with  “order is personal.” For me. Returning home from the sunny south to the cool, often gray barely spring Indiana has left me sad and sadder.  (Yet — anticipation– spring is budding.) Our roots in Fort Wayne are still quite shallow, so I don’t have a full world to return to here.

World. Now, there’s a word that brings us back to Russell Kirk, and what is order, anyway?

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Introducing a New Series: The Roaming Reader

I’ve formed a stack of interesting books in the last five months to read, toting some of them with me for our wintering season in Florida and adding a few selections after discussions with Floridian friends. Today, I introduce to you my new series, a book inspecting and reflecting series, “The Roaming Reader.” My stack represents a variety of genres and topics, yet the variety is still quite limited — based upon my interests and vetting standards. (Now, you wonder what my vetting standards are, so an entire post may be needed, someday, or I’ll simply spoon out my points as we go. We’ll see.)

Paul, Loretta, and I enjoyed the St. Patrick’s Day Festival at the Spanish Springs town square in The Villages. Here in Florida, I’ve found plenty of time to enjoy dear friends, rest, and read.

First, I simply want to present to you the titles and authors comprising this short but heavy stack of eight works. Then, we’ll take note of a warning given to us from another source. Finally, I’ll set up the next post in which we’ll begin to consider two of these books.

Have you read some of these? Maybe you’ll want to explore one of these before I give you my take. Here’s the stack:

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