Lee Salisbury, a former pastor, is a typical apostate. We see that his reasons for abandoning Christianity revolve around a faulty definition of the true meaning of “faith”, as well as many other emotional objections to Christianity. In an article posted at the Secular Web, “Answers to Prayer,” these flaws are quite apparent. 1
Answers to prayer should be the norm for Christians. Didn’t Jesus say ” Ask and it shall be given you” (Mt.7:7)? Based on Jesus’s words answers to prayer should be automatic.
Apparently Salisbury has never heard of “hyperbole” (aka, exaggeration used for emphasis). According to Salisbury, this is a problem for Christianity because so many Christians ask for help and don’t receive it. Yet the idea that all our prayers are automatically answered is bad theology and worse philosophy (since some prayer requests will contradict other requests and since some requess go against the will of God). I suppose that Salisbury had his former faith crushed when God didn’t make him win the lottery. The bottom line is this- Salisbury believes that many of the problems Christians have are directly related to their faith-based thinking:
These afflictions continue because the Christian thought-processes reject objective, rational, critical thinking. Since these thought-processes are done independent of God or the Bible they are considered to be ungodly.
And so we see that, despite years of pastoral service, Salisbury has an entirely faulty definition of biblical faith. 2 In actuality, biblical faith is built upon a rational basis, and it basically involves a trust relationship based on evidence. Most of Salisbury’s rant is focused on this faulty definition.
It might cause them to question their religion. This dilemma for many otherwise intelligent capable Christians is the crux of the problem.
Of course, this is the one-liner of the atheist crowd- “It might cause you to question your religion!” This sarcastic statement is utilized for polemical effect in an attempt to generalize Christians as blindly gullible. As a matter of fact, many Christians do have doubts, and they do question their faith- but they end up keeping it in the end. Oftentimes it seems as if nontheists literally cannot understand how an intelligent person can question Christianity and still remain a Christian. Ironically, it seems as though it is Salisbury who has rejected Christianity for irrational reasons (a misunderstanding of faith, evil deeds of the church and past Christians, etc.)
The 2nd century church father Tertullian wrote that the personal pursuit of truth and understanding is in itself an indication of heresy.
Apparently Salisbury doesn’t realize that “church fathers” are capable of error. Should we discount atheism because of what a famous atheist has said?
Thus, it is heretical to consider that the earth’s age might exceed 6,000 years, in spite of the geologic scientific record, lest one compromise the Bible’s genealogy of Jesus to Adam.
There are a variety of Christian views on this subject, and not all of them uphold the young age of the earth. 3
It is heretical to challenge the Noah flood story regardless of the extraordinary improbability of Noah’s ability to gather, feed, and keep alive two of every fowl, cattle, and creeping thing of the earth on a one-window boat for 10½ months; and in spite of the archeological record of neighboring cultures which contradicts the occurrence of a worldwide flood.
Likewise, even if we assume that Salisbury is right about this, there are a variety of Christian views on this issue, and not all of them uphold a literal global flood and ark.
Certainly it would be heretical to question the teachings and deeds of Jesus even though the earliest copies of copies of copies of manuscripts date from 300 years after his alleged life; and even though the reputable Jewish philosopher and historian Philo of Alexandria who was contemporaneous with Jesus never so much as mentioned the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth or the alleged miracles in and surrounding his life.
I would love Salisbury to compare the Christian manuscripts with any other manuscripts of any ancient historical document. Undoubtedly, such a comparison would be quite an embarrassment to Salisbury, for he would find that the manuscript evidence for the New Testament far exceeds that of any ancient historical document. 4 As for Philo, according to J.P. Holding such a lack of mention is hardly a surprise:
“…Philo may not have lived long enough to see Christianity become a threat, and make Jesus worthy of note; to report nothing about someone in your history was a typical means of oblique insult; and we know Philo at least never mentions Christianity either, so the silence about Jesus is hardly problematic…” 5
Next, Salisbury has some complaints about Christianity’s view of human nature:
For example, in order to be a candidate for becoming a Christian each person must accept that they are sinners. Why?
Well…. perhaps because we are. Salisbury gives us no reason to think otherwise. But, according to Salisbury the reason is this:
The historical facts as recorded in the Bible state that some 6,000 years ago a person named Eve, who, after being made from Adam’s rib while he slept, was spurred on by a talking snake to seduce Adam into the sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Yes, this is so. However, it must be mentioned that, for those that find the story of Adam and Eve to be “unbelievable” (why?) then one can take Adam and Eve to be symbolic.
All objective, rational, critical thought must be suspended to believe this story. But, once this story is accepted (swallowed), the process of naive, exploitable, child-like faith and cognitive dissonance become the standard operating procedure.
Salisbury doesn’t say why this is so (perhaps he believes it is self-evident?), but I see no reason to listen to his rant. In any case Salisbury surely hasn’t used much “objective, rational, or critical thought” in order to discredit the story of Adam and Eve. How ironic it is that, in the process of completing a rant about supposed “critical thinking”, Salisbury has committed the fallacy of argument by assertion!
In fact, biblical Christianity undermines a person’s ability to think by using self-deprecation as the hammer to convince people of their depraved, sinful state. The acclaimed Protestant theologian John Calvin declared ‘We are nothing but mud and filth both inside and outside.’ The Roman Catholic Ignatius of Loyola stated, ‘We are mere dung.’
Here, once again, Salisbury quotes church fathers and theologians as if they were inerrant. Should we discredit atheism because Nietsche argued that life was totally meaningless? And what if Calvin and Loyola are right and we are complete scum? Is there any reason for us to think this is not true? But even if they are wrong, there is nothing in the Bible or Christianity that necessitates such a low view of human morality. And even if it did it would not necessarily mean that Christianity undermines a person’s ability to think.
In any case, let us consider the stance of atheism. On the atheist view, we are just the result of complicated chemical reactions. There is nothing objectively valuable to our existence. So, on the atheist view, we are “mere dung”- or even worse! We are absolutely nothing of value, living out our brief existence in a universe that has no value. Dung may be a rather generous view of ourselves if we follow the logical outcome of atheism. 6
Instead of empowering people, Christianity in fact weakens people’s ability to think, thus accentuating self-doubt, fear, exhaustion, helplessness, as well as all the other conditions expressed in the prayer request.
But Christ allows us to live in confidence and peace. Besides, what does any of this ramble have to do with whether or not Christianity is true?
Biblical faith’s substance is not only of things “hoped for” but depends on the evidence of things “not seen” (Heb.11:1).
Of course Salisbury mentions Hebrews 11:1 (Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.) We don’t receive, nor should we expect, any sort of examination of this passage in context. Here I will offer an extended quote of J.P. Holding:
There, see! The evidence of things not seen. Blind faith. Case closed.” Try again! The list that follows offers examples of people who had been given undeniable proof of God’s existence and power. Pistis here is a matter of trust in a God who has demonstrated His ability to be a worthy patron, and the examples are those of clients who, knowing this ability, trust in God’s record as a patronal provider. Hebrews 11:1 therefore is telling us that faith (trust in our patron, gained by conviction based on evidence) is the substance (the word here means an assurance, as in a setting under, a concrete essence or an abstract assurance) of things hoped for (this word means expected by trust, which is something earned!), and the evidence of that which is not seen, which in context means we expect, based on past performance, continuing favor from our patron, who has already proven Himself worthy of our trust by example, and this trust is our confidence in the fulfillment of future promises. Blind faith? Not in the least! It is faith grounded in reality. 7
In contrast, objective rational thought put forward by the likes of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Darwin, Paine, and, other reputable scientists and academics have catapulted us forward to advances in science, the arts, democracy in government, and human rights barely if ever imagined in religious history.
Interestingly, most the scientists on the short list provided were Christians! But why should “Christianity” be expected to come up with wonderful scientific advances? Scientific advances are supposed to come from scientists. However, as mentioned here, many of the scientists responsible for such advances are (and were) Christians, and were inspired by their Christianity to do such great work.
Religious, faith-based thinking has resisted these advances at every turn.
Which, even if true, does nothing to show that religion is wrong (see HERE). Nor does it show that these advances, according to sound Christian doctrine, should be opposed.
These advances, many of which came in spite of persecution from Christians, developed because various individuals had the courage to apply objective, rational, critical reasoning to the problems of their day.
It is indeed interesting that many of those who had the “courage” to stand up to the “evil Christians” were in fact Christians themselves!
Christians will continue to struggle as long as their faith requires them to violate the very foundations of that which provides health and well being to the human psyche.
Merely more ranting- totally unsubstantiated by any sort of argument. But, even if it were true, it would not show that Christianity is wrong.
Christianity with its longstanding weapon of maligning its detractors creates peer pressure from which few are willing or able to consider the contradictions and inconsistencies.
And, of course, this is how Salisbury answers the question “why are there so many Christians?” Obvious- it’s because of the brainwashing! This is merely another “sound bite” aimed at pleasing the crowd.
There really was very little of value in this extended rant by a former pastor. However, I decided to write a response because this is the sort of stuff you may find from most nonbelievers, particularly apostates. There is no need to be intimidated by these sorts of rants.
1. Salisbury, Lee. Answers to Prayer. Found at http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/prayer.html
3. India, “Reconciling Creation and Science”, http://www.rationalchristianity.net/creation_evolution.html
6. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway books, 1994) Chapter 2.